How do journalists get into this mysterious group? They must sneak the phrase "It was as if an occult hand had..." past their editors and into published articles. The Order emerged sometime during the 1960s, perhaps when Paul Greenberg was writing for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. After an exposé in 2004, Greenberg was eventually forced to come public:
Of course I knew we'd get caught some day. Some investigative journalist with nothing more important to investigate was bound to turn his attention to us on a slow day. So when the inevitable e-mail arrived, as if delivered by an occult hand, I offered no resistance. ("It's been a terrible burden keeping the secret to myself all these years," said the suspect. "I knew I'd be caught sooner or later. Now I feel only relief.")
But I couldn't just let the Order die. It had become a tradition So at the next annual editorial writers' convention, I called an after-hours meeting of all those who might be interested in adopting a new secret phrase. It couldn't be just a simple piece of purple-as-a-bruise prose that would leap out of our copy as if written in neon. What we needed was some language bad enough to be spotted by the cognoscenti but likely to get past the casual copyreader. Call it lavender prose.
There were a number of nominations, and it wasn't easy picking a winner. Among the runners-up were "hanging over the scene like a shroud" and "like a soft, warm, weird breeze blowing aimlessly through the palms." Which did we pick? I'll never tell.
But I'm proud to report that the Order is in business again with, at last count, 11 certified members who've submitted proof that they've actually snuck the magic phrase into a reputable publication, 14 candidates who have yet to submit their documentation, and one honorary member who seems to spin out this kind of prose naturally.
I think that Neatorama authors need a similar secret society for getting an odd phrase past Alex and Miss Cellania. What should it be?