Facts, facts, facts; there is nothing but facts. The writer’s first business is to get at these facts exactly —get the meat out of them— and then, by the most direct method, to transmit them to his readers. That is the whole substructure of literature; the groundwork —the anatomy.”
The Trade of Authorship, 1888, p. 83
What a long, strange trip it’s been since March 2020, when the latest pandemic has hit the country, Coronavirus (COVID-19). Almost 7 months later, we are still wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, and practicing staying 6 feet apart from those of us who aren’t in a nuclear family. Personally, my college freshman daughter is doing her first semester online, over Zoom calls. This is complicated!
All of this has got me thinking about the past Pandemics and Quarantines through the ages. We’ve had our share: Antonine Plague (165-180), Japanese Smallpox (735-737), The Black Death (1346-1353), Great Plague of London (1665), Philadelphia Yellow Fever (1793), Cholera Pandemics 1-6 (1817-1923), American Polio epidemic (1916), The Spanish Flu (1918-1919), HIV/AIDS (1981-current), American Ebola epidemic (2014-2016)… the list is massive. For a great visual representation of the history of pandemics, check out https://www.visualcapitalist.com/history-of-pandemics-deadliest/
By now you all should know that I’m a research nut, and love going down rabbit holes. After spending a couple days poring over scientific journals and articles on quarantine, pandemics, epidemics and the like, I realized after a certain amount of time, these things die off; or go silent until we wake it up again.
So, enough rambling… onto the main event: “Pandemics & Quarantine Through the Ages.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in its history of quarantine and isolation, says, “The practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.”
This order came from the Adriatic port city of Ragusa (modern day Dubrovnik), which survived and in the Dubrovnik archives city records said that on July 27, 1377 they voted on a proposal that went into law that stated “those who come from plague infested areas shall not enter Dubrovnik or its district unless they previously spend a month on the islet of Mrkan (a nearby uninhabited island) or in the town of Catvat, (a small town south of Dubrovnik) for the purposes of disinfection.”
Did you know? 40 days was chosen because the number had great significance both religiously and historically. Think of Noah’s Ark (40 days/ 40 nights of rain when God flooded the earth); Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days; Jewish people wandered the desert for 40 years.
Alex Chase-Levenson, assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed the first British guide for travelers to Egypt in a guidebook from the 1840s: “Almost the whole introduction was about dealing with quarantine on the return trip. A central rationale for this system was the occasional presence of bubonic plague epidemics in Middle Eastern cities, but even when there were no reports of any disease, every person traveling from the Middle East to Western Europe needed to be quarantined, usually for at least three weeks … The quarantine system ensnared millions of people over its existence, roughly from the mid-eighteenth century to the 1850s. These people had to have their clothes fumigated, had to hand over every piece of mail to be dipped in vinegar and smoked. Sometimes, you can still smell that on early nineteenth-century letters.“1
In the Louvre hangs Antoine-Jean Gros’ 1804 work “Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Plague- Stricken of Jaffa,” depicting Napoleon’s Syria campaign in March 1799. “Bonaparte, who had become First Consul, wanted it to help clear the accusations of the British press, who had alleged that he had wanted to execute the plague-stricken during his retreat to Cairo. The painting, presented at the 1804 Salon shortly before his coronation – a particularly opportune moment for Bonaparte – is the first masterpiece of Napoleonic history painting.”
A takeaway from Chase-Levenson: “Quarantine is really the oldest precedent that the government needed to invest itself in the health of the nation as a whole, that putting money from taxation behind a medical measure was legitimate. So, it’s a crucial precedent for our modern understanding that the state should be responsible for public health, for the wellbeing of its citizens. Also: Long before there were passport control lines, quarantine constituted a major border regime. There are many ways this system shaped our understanding of what modern states should do.”2
Interested in knowing more? Book Doctor Dara recommends:
Zlata Blazina Tomic and Vesna Blazina’s book Expelling the Plague: The Health Office and the Implementation of Quarantine in Dubrovnik, 1377-1533, was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2015.
Jane Stevens Crawshaw’s article, “The Renaissance Invention of Quarantine,” appears in The Fifteenth Century XII: Society in an Age of Plague, edited by Linda Clark and Carole Rawcliffe, and published in 2013.
Note: The Featured Image is an 1892 map detailing the cases of the Russian flu pandemic across the globe in 16 different time periods, from May 1889 to October 1890 from The National Library of Medicine.
Do you have a word list, a list of favorite words that you have kept forever? I do. I guess I’ve always been fascinated by words, how they roll of my tongue, when they bring shock, or awe to a conversation. “How do you know this word? Where did you hear that?”
Some words are meant to be spread out in the world, some are meant for those quiet, introspective times, and some are those personal words meant for one-on-one with your significant other, spouse, or lover; bedroom talk that you’d embarrass your kids with if it came out in mixed company.
I remember using a word in a conversation with my dad when I was in college. He looked at me and said “well, I know that’s worth every bit of education you’re getting- that’s a COLLEGE level word!”
I’ve decided to share some of them with you, I’m thinking of making this a weekly thing for a few weeks, and I’m always interested in knowing : What is YOUR favorite word, and why?
Without any further adieu, here’s the start of the “My Favorite Words” list – in no particular order ( of course I have Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things” – music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein in my head as I type this).
(n, German): An ache for distant places; the craving for travel
(n, German): “The inconsolable longing in the human heart for we know not what”; yearning for a far, familiar, non-earthly land one can identify as one’s home.
Note: Sehnsucht is divisible into two parts: Sehn from sehnen (to yearn) and Sucht (addiction, craving).
(adj, Dutch): Describes an atmosphere that is warm, softly lit, airy and friendly
Back in the day I had notebooks full of words, (remember composition notebooks?), now I invite you to join me on my “Wordsmithing” pinterest board and see that I am seriously a crazy word lover.
Until next time,
#the more you know…
Those margins weren’t inserted as a guide for how many sentences you should fit onto a page, or even to leave space for notes. Manufacturers started applying margins to writing paper to protect your work as rats used to be common in many people’s homes and would snack on paper.
Applying a wide border to paper safeguarded against losing important work by leaving space around the sides for the rats to chew through first, and to protect the writing on the outer edges from general wear and tear.
Today’s Lunchbox Lesson: ALUMNUS, ALUMNI, ALUMNA, and ALUMNAE
These words all describe attending or graduating from a particular school, but they differ in number and gender. Here’s how it works:
ALUMNUS: a singular noun referring to one male attendee
ALUMNI: a plural noun referring either to a group male attendees or to a mixed group of both male and female attendees (but not *only* female attendees)
ALUMNA: a singular noun referring to one female attendees
ALUMNAE: a plural noun referring to a group of only female attendees
Alumnus means “pupil,” or “nursling” in Latin. This is where it gets interesting! The Latin term for a former school is “alma mater,” meaning “nourishing mother.” Thus, an alumnus can be seen as the “nourished one/pupil” of the “nourishing mother,” the school.
These words are Latin “loanwords,” meaning they preserve their original forms when we use them. The difficulty arises because many Americans have not taken Latin, so they are unfamiliar with Latin forms (i.e. genders and plurals). As a result, the words are often used incorrectly.
One fairly popular trend is to avoid using these specific words altogether. Instead, the word ALUM is used for the singular and ALUMS is used for a group. These constructions avoid the possibility of using the Latin words incorrectly. It is considered acceptable for casual writing and conversation, but it is not acceptable (yet) for formal writing. It’s best if you can try to remember the Latin words — and you’ll look smarter too!
In the days of Westward Expansion, before the freeways and highways were taking us places quickly, waves of migrants were inspired by the promises of cheap land and riches, due to the California Gold Rush in 1849 and the Homestead Act of 1862.
Before the interstate billboards, and neon signs, signs painted on bricks helped the businesses advertise their locations and wares. They’re also located on streetcar routes and where pedestrians were able to see them, in a slower time.
Ghost ads give us a glimpse into the past of our towns and cities, the history of the buildings, and that of the surrounding area as well.
Let’s take a stroll to Omaha, Nebraska. Yes, it was surprising to me to find out that Omaha is one of the main points for ghost advertisements, but after more research, I found out that Omaha served as the eastern terminus and outfitting center for pioneers headed to the west to find their fortune in the California gold fields or to settle available inexpensive land.
Did you know? “The fortunes of Omaha took a positive turn when President Abraham Lincoln selected Council Bluffs, Iowa, for the terminus of the Pacific Railroad, which was subsequently relocated on Omaha’s side of the Missouri River. Actual construction began in 1863, the first step in Omaha’s development into one of the nation’s largest railroad centers.” 
“’They have their own historic value,’ said Ruben Acosta, National Register coordinator at the Nebraska State Historical Society. ‘They oftentimes are one of the very few sources we have as to what businesses were in the building, or what type of economic activity occurred in the district.’
They illustrate the city’s role in the country’s westward expansion, as both a manufacturing center and a trade hub, where ‘jobbing’ wholesalers provided product for retailers throughout the region. And the number of signs for hotels, Acosta said, is evidence of the number of traveling salesmen who did business in Omaha.”
Maya Drozdz, a graphic designer in Cincinnati, says ““I love seeing old examples of graphic design ephemera. The signs were never intended to be permanent, and to see old ones gives me a context for the history of a given area. It gives me a little bit of insight into the kind of community that a neighborhood used to be, or the kind of businesses that used to populate it.”
Interested in reading more? See Part One of the Ghost Ads series on my blog, “Off the Wall: Faded Ghost Ads“.
Do you know of more ghost ads in your cities? Let me know, you might spark some research and a blog post! Find me on Twitter @bookdoctordara.
Featured image of Bull Durham Chewing Tobacco and Butternut Coffee ghost sign courtesy of Omaha World-Herald.
Instead of looking down at your phone screen, why not “look up” and see what’s hidden in the flaked paint of that old building you are passing by. It may only be a building to you, but in that paint lies a history of times long ago, of businesses long gone, hints of the past. Telling a story of bygone times, the place where Grandpa stopped for an egg cream, or where Mom took you to buy your Buster Brown shoes.
A ghost sign (or faded ad) is an old hand-painted advertising sign that has been preserved on a building for an extended period of time. Painted on the sides of brick buildings, which are porous — adding in the lead paint of the time, it had great staying power.
“Ghost signs have lasted so long because the paint contained lead. Modern paints peel, rather than slowly fading away. Many of today’s restorations are painted in bright colors, but old paints were less vibrant, and the available palette was limited.”
Matt Cohen, a local copywriter and marketer in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, Canada gives us a six-minute TEDx talk on how ghost signs evolved from promotion to persuasion.
[Editor’s Note: Be on the lookout for another post that ties old fashioned ghost ads into the present with technology]
Fading paint, beautiful lettering showcase typography of long ago and the skilled workers who used to be known as “wall dogs”. They were “artists and daredevils,” according to Frank Jump, author of 2011’s Fading Ads of New York City.
“The ability to paint recognizable images and text on such a large scale at such high altitudes requires a certain level of both grit and finesse.” It was a “well-respected working-class job” and many wall dogs came from families full of wall dogs.
[Animated] “Painting a Wall Sign”
When the typography signs are layered over one another, it is known as palimpsest. In textual studies, a palimpsest is a manuscript page, either from a scroll or a book, from which the text has been scraped or washed off so that the page can be reused for another document.
“By exploring the complex relationships that exist between the signs and those who commissioned, painted, viewed (and view) them, a deeper appreciation can be developed of wider historical, social and cultural movements. Ghost signs elicit a broad range of analytical responses: from investigations into modernity and everyday life, to explorations of lettering and the practicalities of painting styles and conservation techniques – and more recently, of digital placemaking and amateur archival practices.
Coca-Cola Featured photo in Demopolis, Alabama courtesy of Waymark
Want to Read More? Here are some LINKS:
3. Lyons, Martyn (2011). Books: A Living History. California: J. Paul Getty Museum. p. 215. ISBN 978-1-60606-083-4.↩
4. White, L, Schutt, S & Roberts, S (2016). “Uncovering Ghost Signs and their Meanings“. In Schutt, S, Roberts, S & White, L (eds), Advertising and Public Memory: Historical, Social and Cultural Perspectives on Ghost Signs. London: Routledge, pp. 1-14. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/313823738_Uncovering_Ghost_Signs_and_their_Meanings
Thanks to something called ablaut reduplication — a rule stating that, if you repeat a word and change an internal vowel, the order you say them in has to follow I-A-O.
This is why it’s King Kong, Ding Dong, Tick Tock (which sounds right to your ear), and not Kong-King, Dong-Ding, and Tock-Tick (which doesn’t sound right at all!)
Ever wonder why it’s Little Red Riding Hood? The adjective rule helps you remember what order to put things in: it’s obscure, but yes, it is a thing!
ie: little green men, not green little men; and Big Bad Wolf, not Bad Big Wolf.
And… now you know about the
crazy things elements of eloquence* that I, as an editor, know, to help make your manuscript better! #knowledgeispower #research #grammar #saywhat?
*Editor’s Note- The “elements of eloquence” is a great book by Mark Forsyth! Get it and enjoy learning how to turn a phrase.
Ever wonder where ideas come from?
Do they come while you’re daydreaming, or standing in the shower? Do you have a pad / pen nearby to remind you of those ideas when you need them? Some people are visual, and take their cues from images on billboards, memes, or old photos or advertisements.
According to Inc. Magazine, approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners, around 30 percent of the population is made up of auditory learners, who learn best through hearing, and Kinesthetic learners (those who learn best through lectures and conferences) make up just 5 percent of the population.
Check out Steven Johnson’s TED Talk “Where Good Ideas Come From”:
Check out the Idea Generators: https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/idea-generator-brainstorming/
Friday Word of the Day
verb \ i-ˈlīd \
1 a : to suppress or alter (something, such as a vowel or syllable) by elision
b : to strike out (something, such as a written word)
2 a : to leave out of consideration : omit
b : curtail, abridge
Examples of elide in a Sentence
some unnecessary verbiage will need to be elided, but otherwise the article is publishable
the product presentation was not elided—it’s always only 15 minutes long
Kanban boards were created in the 1950s by Toyota to help their manufacturing and engineering processes go faster. They used physical color-coded cards to communicate throughout the manufacturing floor where the process was and what materials were needed to finish the job.
Taiichi Ohno, industrial engineer for Toyota created the Kanban system to work more efficiently.
Word Nerd Alert: Kanban is the Japanese word for “visual signal” or “card.”
According to Inc. Magazine, approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners, around 30 percent of the population is made up of auditory learners, who learn best through hearing, and Kinesthetic learners (those who learn best through lectures and conferences) make up just 5 percent of the population. So, no wonder Kanban boards are so prevalent in the workforce.
I use Trello for my editorial Kanban board. Looking back to 2017, you can see the original blog post where I was toying with the idea of trying out Trello. A year and a half later, I can say that it helps me keep organized, and not let dates slip. I keep a board for each client I am working with, with their individual projects on cards, color-coded for transparency. I can see at a glance what is coming up, and what is needed to do NOW. I can maneuver the cards to change the priority depending on what comes up at the last minute, and see if I have time in the editorial calendar to fit it in.
I admit I cannot live without my paper planner, Post-it Notes, colored pens, or magnetic clips, however. What happens if the Internet / WiFi goes down?
The first step is admitting you have a problem…
“My name is Dara Rochlin and I am an office supply junkie”
So, tell me, are you a physical planner type, or a virtual planner? Are you a Post-it Notes on the whiteboard type? Enquiring minds want to know!
Featured image courtesy of LeanKit
Yesterday morning while scrolling social media, to glean ideas for the next (this) blog post, I came across a friend who is traveling this summer in Malaysia, in a Starbucks that is a Signing Store. He had to learn how to “sign” for milk rather than speak Malay.
Interested? Here’s the link: www.starbucks.com.my/responsibility/signingstore .
That got me thinking about routine, caffeine, and why one chooses Starbucks vs. Coffee Bean vs. the independent coffee shop to go spend their mornings/afternoons. How culturally the experience seems so different depending on where you are in the country, and in the world, actually.
The offerings are very culturally specific and unique (to us Westerners) when one sees different drinks across the world, utilizing ingredients and traditions of that culture.
Smithsonian Magazine’s 2013 article, Coffee Here, and Coffee There: How Different People Serve the World’s Favorite Hot Drink, says in Ethiopia, coffee, called ‘buna’ is “made and served in a traditional table-side ritual that transforms the beans from raw red cherries into toasty, steaming drink, often all before the guest’s eyes. The process can last more than an hour, as the host toasts, grinds and boils the coffee before serving.”
Personally, I’ve found a little independent coffee shop called Klatch which recently opened in the neighborhood is my current favorite. They have an iced Crème-brûlée coffee that is just spectacular. Perfect for those hot summer days here at the beach. Of course, most days are warm here, so perhaps my usual drink at Starbucks and Coffee Bean has been replaced?
Have you traveled to various countries and had coffee? Tell me what you like on Twitter @bookdoctordara. You never know what might come up in another blog post!
Meanwhile, if you are looking for me, I’ll be in a coffee shop working on editing, researching, and fact-checking; and wondering which coffee I’ll be drinking that day.
Interested in this topic? Read More Here:
National Coffee Association’s History of Coffee: http://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/History-of-Coffee
Mental Floss Magazine (reposted to National Coffee Association) – 5 Attempts to ban coffee in History: https://nationalcoffeeblog.org/2015/12/15/5-attempts-to-ban-coffee-in-history/
Sensitivity to Caffeine – what kind of coffee drinker are you? (Genetics) https://nationalcoffeeblog.org/2018/06/14/which-type-of-coffee-drinker-are-you/#more-10875
Update: The Washington Post just announced the first Signing Store from Starbucks will be in Washington, D.C. My friend started a trend!
Featured image courtesy of: https://www.nativenh.com/blog/2018/6/1/coffee-around-the-world
In 1104, in the village of Little Dunmow, England a tradition started called Flitch Day. Today the event is celebrated every 4 years (next one 2020). On this day, a flitch of bacon (half a pig) is awarded to a married couple who can convince a mock jury that they do not regret their marriage. In front of a jury of bachelors and maidens they had to take a pledge.
Here’s the pledge the couple had to take.
You shall swear by custom of confession,
If ever you made nuptial trangresssion,
Be you either married man or wife,
If you have brawls or contentious strife
Or otherwise, at bed or at board,
Offended each other in deed or word:
Or, since the parish-clerk said Amen,
You wish’t yourselves unmarried agen,
Or in a twelvemonth and a day,
Repented not in thought any way,
But continued true in thought and desire
As when you join’d hands in the quire.
If to these conditions, without all feare,
Of your own accord you will freely swear,
A whole gammon of bacon you shall receive,
And bear it hence with love and good leave;
For this is our custom at Dunmow well knowne,
Though the pleasure be ours, the bacon’s your own.
Learn more at: https://www.dunmowflitchtrials.co.uk/history/
Featured image courtesy of: British First Day Covers
Some books just stay with you. They haunt you. You dream of the characters, and of what would be if it just ended differently. Sometimes the closing lines just make sense, and sometimes they hint of a path not taken. Some give us closure, some are cliffhangers, yet they make me want to read the book again, and again. How about you?
Here are a few of mine.
by Mary Shelley
“He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.”
Lord of the Flies
by William Golding
“He turned away to give them time to pull themselves together; and waited, allowing his eyes to rest on the trim cruiser in the distance.”
A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
“He turned out the light and went into Jem’s room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”
by George Orwell
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden
“Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.”
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
“Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye and sailed back over a year and in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room where he found his supper waiting for him—and it was still hot.”
Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
“But that is the beginning of a new story – the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”
In Cold Blood
by Truman Capote
“Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.”
Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad
“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky – seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.”
The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Hippos Go Berserk
by Sandra Boynton
One hippo, alone once more, misses the other 44.
What’s your favorite last line?