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Obituary Clarence Lewis Barnhart, 1900-1993 The death of Clarence Barnhart has taken away America's preeminent lexicographer. This is so generally acknowledged that I need not dwell on it. My own acquaintance with him began in the 1930s while I was at the University of Chicago as an assistant to Sir William Craigie on the Dictionary of American English. Clarence was living in an apartment on the Midway, with an already growing family, where I visited him many times, and we often went out for meals together. Already he had had an exciting life. He was born in southern Missouri, in the west central Ozarks, just one day before the end of the 19th century, on December 30, 1900. He grew up in a religious family, where he was expected to become a minister, as he himself did. The members of his church at Hutchinson, Kansas, arranged for a fouryear scholarship at Transylvania College in Kentucky, but by the end of his freshman year he had "lost his faith" and with great honesty and courage gave up the scholarship. His church friends were bitter about it, and he was deeply hurt by the experience. He then enrolled at the University of Kansas at Lawrence, but the deep depression of the 1920s (it hit the Middle West a decade before it came to New York) prevented him financially from continuing. Then when he was a bill collector in Oklahoma and Texas, an old high school friend, Al Goodwin, encouraged him to come to Chicago, and he got a job in the shipping room at Scott, Foresman and Co. This enabled him to work for his B.A. at the University of Chicago, which he received in 1930. He was so good as a student that he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year; the aberrations of Robert Maynard Hutchins had not fazed him. At Scott, Foresman, he moved from the shipping room to a position as file clerk in the editorial offices where he was able to write some memoranda for the editor who was working on the contributions of Edward L. Thorndike. These memoranda were passed on to Thorndike without change, and he was soon promoted to an editorial position. He found Thorndike's innovations and fresh attitude toward lexicography congenial, and the association resulted in the important group of Thorndike-Barnhart school dictionaries. The nature of their Obituary_____ 217 work is well told in Barnhart's survey, "Contributions of Dr. Thorndike to Lexicography," in the Teachers College Record, 51 (October, 1949), 35-42. They took advantage of the great ferment that was taking place as a result of die brilliant insights of Leonard Bloomfield. Barnhart himself took graduate courses widi Bloomfield, Edward Sapir, Sir William Craigie, and James Root Hulbert, but his professional achievements had put him beyond the need of a doctorate. In the course of World War II he was asked to produce a dictionary of military terms. A project that had begun in the 1930s under the WPA (Works Progress Administration) was moved to the War Department and continued under die direction of die noted literary figure Leonard Bacon, and a large body of quotations was assembled. By arrangements widi the American Council of Learned Societies, Barnhart took a leave of absence from Scott, Foresman and accepted die editorship of what became die Dictionary of United States Army Terms, Technical Manual 20-205. The office was at 165 Broadway in New York City, a wing of Henry Lee Smith's Language unit, but kept separate in administration and funding. He brought in some workers well known to him, such as Harrison G. Piatt and Thorndike's sister Mildred, but he had to put up widi some military figures. One of diem, a Major, was asked to shorten a set of definitions, and he cut each one exactly in half, keeping die first half and discarding die second. The result was so ludicrous that Clarence was set into gales of laughter. The 7,000 terms in the dictionary were cut down from a preliminary list about three times as large. It was issued on January 18, 1944, but marked "Restricted." As its title...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 216-219
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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