Does the idiom tar and feather only apply to human? Would it sound awkward to the native English speakers if the idiom is used in the context of the following sentence?

The contradictory pieces of testimonies tar and feather the prosecution's evidence against the accused.

Based on the below definition of the idiom, the usage appears applicable to human.

Tar and Feather

  • 1
    It makes no sense. Pieces if testimony reprimand or excoriate evidence??
    – Jim
    Feb 6, 2021 at 5:43
  • 1
    If it helps, it seems to be the "and feather[ed]" that prevents the metaphorical use. You can use "tar" +with {the brush of [insert phrase]}: (i)tarred with the brush of presumed incompetence (ii) tarred with the same cliché-ridden brush (iii) tarred with the policy decisions of others, etc.
    – user81561
    Feb 6, 2021 at 13:55
  • 1
    It's a metaphor, people!!!
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 6, 2021 at 14:25

1 Answer 1


The expression normally refers to the informal punishment of people considered to have offended against social conventions, as in the first definition - for instance, people seen as collaborating with the enemy in wartime. The metaphorical sense is not very common, and I'm fairly sure it would only be used of people. As the comments show, your sentence would not be readily understood.

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