Larry Sloan, publisher of one of the world’s best-loved language games, died Sunday. The Mad Libs series of books has brought roars of laughter to the American households since the 1960s. He was 89.
Mad Libs, in which players complete sentences with random words and then read back the results, was originally shunned by book publishers and game manufactures. But now, more than 110 million copies have been reportedly sold, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Mad Libs series has become a roadtrip favorite: all you need to play is a pen and some basic knowledge of grammar.
(LIST: The 100 Best Toys of All TIME)
Its made-up name came from an eavesdropped conversation that the other two cofounders of Mad Libs happened to hear. Leonard Stern and Roger Price came up with the idea for the word game in 1953, but couldn’t decide on a name for it. Five years later the two were eating eggs Benedict at a restaurant in New York when they overheard an argument between an actor and his agent. The actor told his agent that he wanted to “ad-lib” an interview. To which the agent replied that such endeavor would be “mad.”
The publishing company the three men formed, Price Stern Sloan, also published books with titles like How to Be a Jewish Mother and The VIP Desk Diary, among nearly 150 other softcover titles, the L.A. Times reports. It was sold in 1993 to what is now the Penguin Group.
(MORE: The 25 Best iPad Apps for Kids)
Born in New York City, Sloan joined the Army before graduating from UCLA to fight World War II. After the war he studied Chinese at Stanford University. To his friends and family, he had a love for grammar and always had a joke at hand. Sloan died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a short illness, his daughter told the newspaper.