Paul Greenberg

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.

All decisions on admission are final and I make them, having taken the precaution of appointing myself Supreme Poobah, Benevolent Dictator, or Exalted Whatever of the Order. Which simplifies administration considerably.

We have yet to come up with a secret handshake or formal robes, but I'm working on it. Maybe I'll start with a T-shirt. A secret society can't have too much advertising.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.