tar baby

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tar baby

n.
1. A inextricable situation or difficult and pressing problem that often grows worse as one tries to deal with it.
2. Offensive Slang Used as a disparaging term for a black person, especially a dark-skinned black child.

[After "Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby," an Uncle Remus story by Joel Chandler Harris in which Brer Fox makes a doll out of tar and Brer Rabbit gets stuck in it when he punches it after it does not return his greeting.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

tar baby

n
a troublesome situation that is made worse by attempts to extricate oneself from it
[C20: after the tar-covered doll in a story (1881) by Joel Chandler Harris]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

tar′ ba`by


n.
an inextricable problem or situation.
[after the tar doll in an Uncle Remus story (1881) of J. C. Harris]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
on hand--our mud babies, our tar babies, our baby soldiers, our
The '50s seem like a long time ago now...making tar babies on hot days, ollies and steelies, stalies, step whitening stones, reckitt's blue bags, dolly pegs and possers, dolly tubs - now a garden fashion statement - black-leading the kitchen range, coal cellars and our pre-war Austin Sixteen motor car with running boards had a pneumatic window wiper which we had electrified.