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Digging again through old newspapers, I came across another very early use in print of the nickname “Tar Heels.” A little over a year ago I wrote about the appearance of the nickname in an ad in an 1864 Fayetteville paper, which was a contender for the earliest use of “Tar Heels” in print. Now […]

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Like Google Books Ngram Viewer before it, Wedding Crunchers — a searchable database of New York Times wedding announcements — has obvious limitations for serious research. But what’s so bad about a few passing screenfuls of entertainment and provocation? Following up on last week’s look at how often the University of North Carolina and other […]

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What caught my eye on the 1935 front page of The Pilot of Southern Pines — thank you, NC Digital Heritage Center — was this headline: YEGGS CRACK SAFE IN POSTOFFICE AT HEMP, GET LITTLE Yeggs? Hemp? The Google Ngram Viewer charts the abrupt rise and fall of yegg as slang for safecracker or burglar. […]

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“For a place he once called ‘the most sinful city’ he had ever visited, Washington, D.C. has lent Evangelist Billy Graham a pretty respectful ear. By last week, at the end of a nine-week prayer ‘crusade’ there, Billy had preached to audiences totaling 500,000 people. Recorded conversions: 6,244. ” ‘And they were not just the […]

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“Upset at the Chesterfield people for some reason, [Arthur Godfrey] once avoided doing a commercial through the entire program. Just as he was about to sign off, he said, ‘Oh, and today we’re brought to you by Chesterfields. They’re cigarettes’…. “One day he departed from the script he was handed for a Chesterfield ad and […]

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— Just how big was the Gulf oil spill? This big. — “Ancient Site Re-Discovered” at Robbinsville… or so it says. — Mr. W.T. Marlin sees the error of his ways. — Moore County: Goodbye, coal, hello, natural gas? — Ngram Reader considers the vagaries of  Polish Americana.

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“In Hendersonville…  Today I am in comparative affluence, but Monday and Tuesday I had two tins of potted meat, three oranges and a box of Uneedas and two cans of beer… and when I think of the thousand meals I’ve sent back untasted in the last two years. It was fun to be poor — […]

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Back before newsroom budgets so discouraged serendipity, I happened onto Stan Woodward and his quirky documentary “It’s Grits” (both will appear Wednesday evening at Wilson Library). This was in 1979, after “It’s Grits” had unspooled at the Museum of Modern Art (good eye, MOMA!), but before it went national on PBS. Though reared in Spartanburg […]

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Those industrious elves at Google Books Ngram Viewer must never sleep! Here are their latest offerings for North Carolinians’ provocation and speculation: — Carolina blue was adopted on campus about 1800, but the rest of the world seems to have taken a while to catch on. — Jimmie Johnson vs. Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and […]

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Still more phrase-frequency charts from the indefatigable Google Books Ngram Reader: — sweet tea — Jesse Helms vs. Terry Sanford and Sam Ervin — Old North State vs. Tar Heel State. Only now has Tar Heel State become the more common usage? There’s something here I’m not getting. — redneck vs. white trash and hillbilly […]

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