To catch a Tartar……

While opinions vary about the origin of the word “Tartar,” all agree that 13th-century western Europeans used the term to refer to invading Mongol tribes. The word was actually a derivative of the name the ancient Romans used to refer to Tartarus, the area in the underworld where evil people and monsters were sent for eternity. “Tartar,” however, may have been chosen because of its resemblance to “Tatar,” the name used to refer to several tribes that the renowned Mongol leader Genghis Khan conquered early in his career.

According to tradition, when an Irish soldier was in battle with a Turkish soldier some time in the 1800s, the Irish soldier called out to his officer that he had “caught a Tartar.” When ordered to bring him in, the soldier replied, “I can’t. This Tartar won’t let me.” The story was repeated, and the expression “to catch a Tartar” came to represent a situation in which a person wins more than he or she can control. By itself, “tartar” is used to describe a violent, irritable, and stubborn individual.

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