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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2008-02-22 10:53:33

Registered: 2008-01-10
Posts: 4

Tarnished with the same brush (Tarred...)


Tarnished with the same brush (~2,600 hits)
Tarred with the same brush (~71,600 hits)

I heard this one spoken on the radio the other day. Some high-profile hits:
“Employment agencies say they worry about being “tarnished with the same brush” as rogue gangmasters as a new watchdog is launched.” … mfriendly/
“In short, if someone makes a duff PalmOS-based PDA, Palm gets tarnished with the same brush.”

Financial Management in the Voluntary Sector: New Challenges – Google Books Resultby Paul Palmer, Adrian Randall – 2002 – Business & Economics – 320 pages
... with perhaps the voluntary agencies all unfairly being ‘tarnished’ with the same brush of the latter and seen as being outdated and reactionary. ...…

America in White, Black, and Gray: The Stormy 1960s – Google Books Resultby Klaus P. Fischer – 2006 – History – 452 pages
... his widely used book The Paranoid Style in American Politics, in which the whole political right is tarnished with the same brush of paranoia, bigotry, ...…

A Positive Approach to Autism – Google Books Resultby Stella Waterhouse – 1999 – Psychology – 382 pages
It is sad, though, that a number of them feel that all of’us’ are tarnished with the same brush. ...…

The American Ideology: A Critique – Google Books Resultby Andrew Levine – 2004 – Political Science – 167 pages
... Because it shares Rousseau’s aim of reaching a genuine consensus on ends, deliberative democracy is tarnished with the same brush. On the other hand, ...…

Last edited by wayner (2008-02-22 19:45:01)



#2 2008-02-23 11:03:22

Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 1456

Re: Tarnished with the same brush (Tarred...)

I like it. “Tarred with the same brush” is an in-the-language construction, so one could argue that any close-sounding departures of it might be eggcorns.

What is particularly compelling about it is the flawed notion of tarnishing something with a brush. (Things don’t normally get tarnished that way, do they?). I find that imperfect imagery—or imagery that involves a stretch of the imagination—is often the domain of eggcorns. So, I got a good chuckle out of this one.

I guess I would also add that the utters probably prefer the connotations of “tarnished” over “tarred.” (The rest of the expression just got carried along because it’s a familiar construction). To me, “tarnished” seems to have a more insidious origin—one of natural consequence. And “tarred” conjures a messier, mudslinging feel to it. But that’s only my interpretation. Perhaps someone could comment on the precise imagery intended with expression “tarred with the same brush.”

Last edited by jorkel (2008-02-23 11:22:13)



#3 2008-02-25 13:21:29

Registered: 2007-06-19
Posts: 263

Re: Tarnished with the same brush (Tarred...)

except that, to tarnish is to oxidize.

You can apply a brush-on coating to metal that speeds up the oxidizing process, creating an artificially rapidly induced patina. Particularly lovely on copper.

This was very popular in the early 1990s as a decorating/craft technique; I bought a “patinization” kit from Pottery Barn (and sputtered about the loss of the word “patinated” for “patinized’).

And people have long brushed on a patinizing formula on copper roofs to speed up the transition to the patinated green color.



#4 2008-02-25 13:48:34

Registered: 2008-01-10
Posts: 4

Re: Tarnished with the same brush (Tarred...)

I would argue that the verb “to tarnish” is inherently passive—one does not actively tarnish something, rather something tarnishes all by itself over time, even when the effect is desired and induced. Moreover the phrase “tarred with the same brush” specifically pertains to persons and their actions, not to inanimate objects, and one wouldn’t—couldn’t—tarnish a person, with a brush or otherwise.

There’s another interesting take on the idiom here:

Last edited by wayner (2008-02-25 13:52:15)



#5 2008-02-26 13:18:30

Registered: 2007-03-21
Posts: 291

Re: Tarnished with the same brush (Tarred...)

wayner wrote:

I would argue that the verb “to tarnish” is inherently passive—one does not actively tarnish something, rather something tarnishes all by itself over time

While the notion of metal or other materials oxidizing is “logically intransitive” (by which I think I mean the same thing as wayner’s “inherently passive”—that is, it does not immediately call to mind an agent), “tarnish” is quite commonly used figuratively to mean something like “disgrace, damage in reputation.”

This figurative sense is not “logically intransitive” or “inherently passive”, as evidenced by the common tendency for the word to occur in actual passive constructions with a by-phrase indicating the agent.

A search of Google News for the phrase “tarnished by” reveals 662 raw hits/292 unique hits in the past month (between 26 January and 26 February 2008). Nearly all of these that I have looked at usee the figurative “disgrace” sense.

FEMA’s Image Still Tarnished by Katrina … 02589.html

Hip Hop Congress Event Tarnished by Violence

“I cannot understand how the repute of the administration of justice is not seriously tarnished by blatantly illegal police conduct.” … 4-sun.html

Top Austrian managers’ image is badly tarnished
“top managers’ image had been badly tarnished by the recent tax-evasion scandal in Germany and money-laundering scandals” … cob=329721

There are, by the way, an additional 125 (108 unique) Google News articles containing the active voice “tarnishes”, again almost exclusively figurative.

“She called Ritter’s executive order a ‘balanced package’ between workers and employers and said the no-strike bill tarnishes it with ‘anti-worker sentiment.’”

Mayweather Further Tarnishes His Image With Proposed Wrestling Match

It is probably this figurative tarnish that is applied with a figurative brush. That is, just as “tarred with the same brush” may indicated multiple people accused of the same/similar failings, those “tarnished with the same brush” are disgraced for those similar failings.



#6 2008-02-27 13:33:56

Registered: 2007-06-19
Posts: 263

Re: Tarnished with the same brush (Tarred...)

also, remember that we are talking eggcorns, not strictly exact and proper usage.

Eggcorns are created by people’s associations—not by their knowledge of exactly how terms are traditionally used. Someone who even understands the IDEA of transitive or intransitive verbs will probably not be making many eggcorns.

If people have a vision of stuff rusting, or tarnishing, or oxidizing, and they can connect it with something that is brushed on, then they might make this leap.

I think nilep is right, though—that the “tarnished reputation” is much more likely to have fueled this eggcorn.

Last edited by TootsNYC (2008-02-27 13:36:40)



#7 2019-03-03 19:21:20

Dixon Wragg
From: Cotati, California
Registered: 2008-07-04
Posts: 1364

Re: Tarnished with the same brush (Tarred...)

I recently encountered this variation:

This is painting France with an extremely long brush, but too many high-profile French actresses responded to the MeToo uprising with haughty disdain for me not to notice it.

It seems clear that this was influenced by something like “tarnishing (or tarring) France with an overly-broad brush”. I think the metaphor is distorted beyond any plausible meaning connection by the substitution of “long”.



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