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Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
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Session:         Page of 1029

I came in one day and cheerily announced, “Let's do a dictionary.”

Q:

For some reason? Had you tried to look a word up and found it wasn't there?

Cerf:

No. I was just always thinking that it would be a very big thing to do. To show you how incredibly little I knew about getting out a dictionary...we had two editors, Saxe Commins and Bob Linscott, who were very erudite and I said, “They could really edit this new dictionary in their spare time.” This was my brilliant, original plan for doing a dictionary--to have two of our editors supervise it in their spare time;

Well, I started looking into things and found out what a fool I was; but I got more and more interested in publishing a dictionary. Then we found out that Clarence Barnhart, who was considered at that time the greatest living lexicographer in the United States, by a stroke of rare luck, had just finished a job. I think that it was the Thorndike-Barnhart Dictionary. So he was available. I sent for him and told him that I thought that it would be great to do a new college dictionary, a desk dictionary, not an unabridged dictionary, that would sell in the neighborhood of $5 a copy, $6 indexed. He said that there was a need for a new college dictionary, that there hadn't been a new one in years. He would love to edit it. I said, “How much do



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