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!
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.”
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.
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”:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Research, like writing, is never linear. I have a running chat conversation with Edward Branley that delves into many different directions. The beauty of it is, I can search on it and find the conversations that pop up as a “hey, what do you think of this” and use it later on. One perfect example of this was a conversation we had back in November of 2017 about Catholic Churches and Parishes, in New Orleans.
Father Anastase Douay held the first recorded Mass on Mardi Gras [March 3, 1699] on Louisiana soil near the mouth of the Mississippi River, as part of the founding expedition of Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville. This is the beginnings of New Orleans Catholicism taking root.
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Patroness of New Orleans, is believed to have helped the city defend itself against a British attack in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Deborah Krause, a Presbyterian minister wrote a historical paper on how “the figure has presided over New Orleans transformation from an 18th century colony to a 21st century republic — and lately to a devastated landscape after Hurricane Katrina.”
The history of churches and parishes have always been fascinating to me. Who builds them, where they’re built, why they’re built in that particular location. Churches, are the building, Parishes are the surrounding neighborhood. Post-Katrina reorganization, there are parishes in New Orleans that have multiple churches. I’m lucky in that Edward always ties churches / parishes into his novels. For the current novel (almost out, in June!), Trusted Talents, these are all the Churches/ Parishes he mentions:
St. Mary’s Assumption Church, Irish Channel
St. Alphonsus, Irish Channel
Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, main campus of Loyola University New Orleans
St. Stephen’s Church on Napoleon Avenue, Uptown
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Kenner
St. Mary’s Italian Church, French Quarter (Old Ursuline Convent)
Annunciation Church, Faubourg Marigny
Our Lady of the Rosary Church
Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Chalmette
St. Angela Merici Church, Metairie
St. Ann Catholic Church, Metairie
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Faubourg Treme
St. Anthony of Padua Church – S. Bernadotte Street
Peterskirche (Church of St. Peter)
Stephansdom (Cathedral of St. Stephen)
Manhattan Beach, California:
American Martyrs Church
Wonder why I tease him about needing a spreadsheet to keep it all straight?
There are many old photos, and many histories listed on all the church websites, which helps date the timeline for the church creation, and even if it has been merged since it was consecrated/dedicated. Case in point, is St. Stephen’s Church, which is a merged parish now (St. Stephen’s, St. Henry’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel to form Good Shepard).
St Joseph’s Church
Another bit of interesting that I found during my trip down research lane is about St. Joseph’s Church [1802 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans] . Dedicated Sunday, December 18, 1892, the original building was across from Charity Hospital. In 1895 under Archbishop Francis Janssens ( the fifth Archbishop) who renovated the ‘old’ church, it became a place of worship for many Negro Catholics under the patronage of St. Katherine. Demolished in 1964, it was rebuilt on the current location in 1866 when Father John Hayden purchased the current plot of land.
Why does St. Joseph’s call to me, other than the history behind it? It has the longest main aisle in New Orleans at 12′ x 150′ long.
The Redemptorists and The Irish Channel:
St. Alphonsus, St. Mary’s Assumption, and Notre Dame de Bon Secours
The first of three great churches built by The Redemptorists for Catholics in the Irish Channel. St. Alphonsus for the Irish, St. Mary’s Assumption for the Germans and Notre Dame de bon Secours for the French.
Charles E. Nolan writes in his book, Splendors of Faith: New Orleans Catholic Churches, 1727-1930, “St. Mary’s Assumption formed part of a unique cluster of ethnic Catholic parishes in the South. St. Mary’s Assumption (German speaking), St. Alphonsus (English speaking), and Notre Dame de Bon Secours (French speaking) were all served by Redemptorist fathers who shared a common rectory. By 1885, St. Mary’s Assumption numbered 4,000 parishioners; St. Alphonsus, 5,200; and Notre Dame de Bon Secours, 340. St. Mary’s Assumption ceased to function as a separate parish after Hurricane Betsy in 1965. Following a decade of repairs, the renovated church reopened on August 15, 1975, as the place of worship St. Alphonsus Parish” (page 97).
Editor side note: The last line on the plaque “as the St. Aphonsus arts and cultural center” is a typo. Someone should tell them to fix it.
Another site I value for research is the New Orleans Catholic Church website. They even give you history of the various pipe organs that are still (sometimes) in use at the churches.
Finally, don’t be afraid to follow an idea or a fragment of a sentence you find when you are reading, you never know where it may lead. I find that most of the readers are hungry for the historical details you can put in your novel/ manuscript, especially when it furthers your storyline. This is true for real-world places. One never knows what reader you may spark to learn more.
I just finished editing the second novel in the Bayou Talents series for Edward Branley, Trusted Talents. As I am wont to do after finishing edits, I take stock on how I can help my clients streamline the process and make it smoother.
Trusted Talents has so *many* characters, I decided to try to create a spreadsheet to keep track of who they are, how they fit in the story, their quirks, their nicknames, and any other details that I think would be important, especially NAME CHANGES in the middle of the story.
Well, that got me down a rabbit hole pulling my hair out and drinking lots of coffee late at night (does no good for me when my HS Sophomore needs to be at zero period at 6:45 am and I get up at 5:15 am). I am not an Excel expert by any means, I can do basic sum functions and that’s about it. So, cut to the next morning when I was more awake and able to focus. I used my Google-fu powers and found a few different Excel spreadsheets that did what I was looking for already and all I had to do was test them out and see if it worked well for me.
I started with the tab labeled ‘Character List’ and page one of the Trusted Talents novel from Edward. I input all the characters and the formulas that are built into the pages (Remember that I am NO Excel expert) was a lovely touch to make the spreadsheet fill out faster.
A couple things that I really liked was when I sorted by first name, you could see that there are way too many names starting with a certain letter, and how many characters have names that are similar (Davey, David).
I sent what I had worked on to Edward, to see what he thought, and he realized that Brooks Stirling Sumner (Silver)’s grandfather had two names in the novel. Remember up there when I said NAME CHANGES in the middle of the book? He was listed as both Robert Duncan Sumner and Grantland Sumner.
Now, I think of myself as being very attuned to that, but I admit even I missed that name change. This set-up made it easier to fix and find the mistake with a global search and replace function in the master document.
I have started on Edward’s newest novel, Dragon’s Defiance (Book 3 in the Blood-Bound Series) and from first read, had a new spreadsheet set up to start on page 1. What a difference this will make in my editing, and my clients writings. I highly recommend this.
I’ve only used the Character Listtab at this time, but I can see how much more you could do with this spreadsheet – from the Character Genealogy Tab (one of my other passions on the side), to the Word Count Tracker (great for authors trying to hit a certain word count per day or per week to finish their novel), and the Scene List.
In the updated Version 2.0, which I just downloaded, there is the Cards Tab (sort of my old way of writing papers in high school and college with index cards delineating all the scenes/main ideas.) This one is automated, so if you use the Scene List, it pulls the information from that.
The Chapters Tab in Version 2.0 will give you a visual graph of how word count length and number of scenes per chapter.
I’m a firm believer if you have various tools and processes in place, it helps you focus on what you need to do, which is write! (Or in my case, EDIT!) Don’t be afraid to use tools that are already out there to make your process easier. One does not have to reinvent the wheel. You can tweak something that is created to match what you need.
Sound is so important to creative writing. Think of the sounds you hear that you include and the similes you use to describe what things sound like. ‘As she walked up the alley, her polyester workout pants sounded like windshield wipers swishing back and forth.’ Cadence, onomatopoeia, the poetry of language are all so important. Learn all that you can about how to bring sound into your work.