John Brown
Lisa B
I have heard this used quite a lot now that I am in the south (maybe just an NC thing??) Also when I saw Remember The Titans with Denzel Washington, his character said it quite a lot. It's used something like this: "That John Brown tool is no good." Any ideas? Thanks.
AdSumADS
The phrase is a reference to John Brown's armed raid on Harper's Ferry to attain the aboloition of slavery (see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/brown/). The group he led was not armed particularly well, and the raid did not (directly, there's some question about it's social impact given the later Civil War in the United State) free the slaves. So, "a John Brown tool" is an ineffective weapon employed (impractically) for an idealistic cause.
Lewis Joplin II
It means: that damned tool.

JOHN BROWN - "An old term in the South for 'to damn'; after the abolishist John Brown. 'Well, I'll be John Browned." From "The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms: Local Expressions from Coast to Coast" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 2000).

Return to the archive