Bill Powell vs. dictionary over ‘Tar Heel’ vs. ‘Tarheel’

“A professor of history at the university in Chapel Hill believes [Tar Heel] should be two words….and he has been campaigning quietly to get the matter corrected and standardized….

William Powell has petitioned Merriam-Webster… whose definition in Webster’s Third Unabridged Dictionary reads: ‘tarheel, also tarheeler: from Tarheel State, nickname for North Carolina; a North Carolinian — a nickname.’

Frederick Mish, joint editorial director for Merriam-Webster, says the spelling as one word is not likely to change for a while.

” ‘We have to weigh evidence from North Carolina as well as evidence from other places. There has to be a clear-cut preponderance one way or another as to spelling….'”

— From “Tarheel or Tar Heel?” by the Associated Press in the Wilmington Star-News (Dec. 11, 1977)

However long it took Merriam-Webster to find its requisite “clear-cut preponderance,” today the online Unabridged refers to “Tar Heel or Tarheel also Tarheeler.”

“Tarheeler”? A topic for another day….