On an exceptionally hot evening early in July I found the courage to ask him.
      In all the thousands of flight hours logged in all around the world, have you ever seen a UFO Dad?

    The tiny movements in his jaw gave us the feeling that this was a question that should have never been asked. Still his reply caught us all off guard with its cautious truthfulness.

      I never saw an object I couldn’t identify. he said.

Gentlemen of fortune

One of the most infamous stories to arrive over the transom was that of the Majestic 12. It first surfaced in 1984, fittingly, when a roll of film was left on the doorstep of researcher Jamie Shandera by a source as yet to be determined. Shandera and his friends were very much into the subjects of UFOs or conspiracies in spite of the fact that they he no expertise in the area. The pictures included images that were alleged to be classified U.S. government documents.

Set up by Truman in 1947 the MJ 12 were to deal with the fallout of the Roswell crash, the documents told of a top secret organization called the "Majestic 12" a supposed faction some of US history's most prominent people in charge of defending what was known about extraterrestrials. . And according to the documents, "what the government knew" was rather a lot.

Eventually these documents were published in Richard Hall’s Uninvited Guests (1988), and Crash at Corona (1992), by Stanton Friedman and Don Berlinger . To date the National Archives have publicly disavowed the authenticity of the so-called Cutler-Twining Memo, the only independent verification of the existence of MJ-12 aside from the original documents.

Prepare to be boarded!

Anyone who is used to being afloat may be thinking that anything coming up "over the transom" or the stern is rather threatening because only pirates swarm up over the scuppers. But in the colloquialism transom is short for transom window which is a small window above the lintel of a door. According to the OED the phrase first appeared in print in the 1952 April issue of Times magazine. The word transom could be a corruption of transtrum which is Latin meaning a thwart, in a boat. In French the equivalent would be traverse which is the architectural name known for the horizontal lintel or a beam that is framed transversely in a window. Originally these transoms were found in early Gothic church belfries. These unglazed windows or spire lights,” were deemed necessary to strengthen the mullions in the absence of the iron stay bars, which in glazed windows served a similar purpose. By the end of the 1800’s the introduction of transom windows in all kinds of architecture had become widespread across Europe. Quite common in the days before air conditioning they eventually made their way across the sea to the United States as a small-hinged casement above a door that could be opened for ventilation.

Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light

By the dawn of the twentieth century the war was raging among the Copper Kings of Butte, Montana where the booty was copper. Eagerly sought after for wiring the modern world the earth below the Butte was rich with veins of the precious metal. It was an all out war resplendent with greed, corruption, bribery and fraud. While insiders were getting fabulously rich workers were getting robbed and the bribing of legislators and other public officials was not unheard of. To evade observation, many inducements for favor were made by tossing packets of banknotes from the hotel corridor 'over the transom'' into the welcoming official's room. As a result the expression, 'It came in over the transom' arose and in due course came to stand for “any windfall or expected bit of luck.”

As great plot devices many old detective movies have transoms in them. Oftentimes people could eavesdrop on a conversation or stand on a chair and see into a room. Keyholes are used this way, too. Naturally, the door stays closed and that was the point with the idea being that the transom symbolizes a possibility, an edge or even an opportunity.

Hotel residents weren’t the only ones to leave transoms open on hot sultry days. Publishers too would often leave them open, even over night, for circulation. Writers were said to hurl their unsolicited pieces through that window. No one really knows for sure who it was that sailed the first manuscript across the lintel. Maybe it was some shy, unknown author who would throw their stuff through the small windoe rather than risk meeting face to face with a dreaded editor. Some sources say that it could have been “newspaper writers who—lest they miss their deadline by taking the few extra moments to open the door would... toss their stories over the door’s transom and into the editor’s office.”

Operation Paper Chase

The current meaning for over the transom is still used in publishing circles as a metaphor to describe a document that arrives unsolicited or in an unorthodox way. As a matter of fact the term slush pile arose from this tradition. Back in the days when writers would actually hand deliver manuscripts to the magazine's offices, when the editors came to work, or in some cases back from lunch, they would have to wade through the piles of manuscripts that had been tossed over the transom. Perhaps someone thought this was similar to wading through slushy snow and thus the phrase slush pile was coined. These days of course there are some die hard conspiracy theorists that keep slush files about slush funds that are financed by the $400 hammers bought by the Pentagon to payoff the aliens, but that’s another story.

Today sending something over the transom is similar to entering a lottery, however, some publishers still accept unagented manuscripts. You can find out who does by going to the library and looking in Writer's Market or in Literary Marketplace. They will list some guidelines to follow.

Sources:

The Etymology of "Slush":
www.tuginternet.com/jja/journal/archives/001695.htm
Accessed May 29, 2005.

Morris, William and Mary.Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins , HarperCollins, New York, (1977, 1988).

Over-the-Transom
www.public.asu.edu/~aarios/resourcebank/ 03submittingfirstbook/page8.html
Accessed May 29, 2005.

Over the transom :
www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/13/messages/279.html
Accessed May 29, 2005.

Transom:
www.datamass.net/tr/transom.html
Accessed May 29, 2005.

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