Thursday, January 19, 2006

Tom Swifties

A Tom Swifty is a bit of dialog in which the adverb attached to "said" relates both properly and punningly to what was said.

They come from Tom Swift who is the main character of the series of adventure stories written by "Victor Appleton". (Like the Nancy Drew series they were written by a number of different authors under one pseudonym.) He rarely spoke without a qualifier: "Tom added eagerly" or "Tom said jokingly". (They were just qualifiers though. Tom didn't intentionally do Tom Swifties!)

  • "The doctor had to remove my left ventricle," said Tom half-heartedly.
  • "Elvis is dead," said Tom expressly.
  • "I swallowed some of the glass from that broken window," Tom said painfully.
There are other punning dialogs that are accepted as Tom Swifties even if they aren't of the adverb-said form.

  • "My garden needs another layer of mulch," Tom repeated.
  • "You must be my host," Tom guessed.
  • "I've only enough carpet for the hall and landing," said Tom with a blank stare.
  • "Don't let me drown in Egypt!" pleaded Tom, deep in denial.
Someone other than Tom speaking
  • "Who discovered radium?" asked Marie curiously.
  • "I'm going to end it all," Sue sighed.

Morphological; i.e. the words must be broken down into morphemes (smaller components) to understand the pun
  • "This is the real male goose," said Tom producing the propaganda.
  • "The cat sounds as if she's happy now she's been fed," said Tom purposefully.

Homonym or homophone
  • "I have a split personality," said Tom, being frank.
  • "I love hot dogs," said Tom with relish.
  • "There's no need for silence," Tom allowed.
  • "I won't finish in fifth place," Tom held forth.
Try your hand at some Tom Swifties by writing the alphabet down the side of the page and try to generate one for each letter.

If you scroll down I've included the adverb part of some from Tom Swifties Examples if you need something to get you started.


If you come up with some good Tom Swifties you can send them into the "Fun with Words" website
said Tom acidly.
Tom admitted.
Tom bellowed.
said Tom bitingly.
Tom chimed in.
said Tom cuttingly.
said Tom deferred.
exclaimed Tom dumbfoundedly.
said Tom ecstatically.
said Tom electrically.
said Tom fanatically.
Tom said fruitlessly.
said Tom with a glazed look.
said Tom gruesomely.
said Tom handsomely.
said Tom heavily.
said Tom icily.
said Tom intently.
said Tom judgmentally.
said Tom without justification.
Tom kidded.
said Tom, knitting his brow.
reported Tom lamely.
said Tom lumberingly.
said Tom mechanically.
Tom mourned.
asked Tom noteworthily.
said Tom, nonplussed.
said Tom oddly.
said Tom patiently.
aid Tom pathologically.
said Tom quiveringly.
said Tom quixotically.
said Tom rabidly.
Tom admitted readily.
said Tom sagely.
said Tom sheepishly.
said Tom tenderly.
said Tom triumphantly.
said Tom unaccountably.
said Tom unwillingly.
said Tom weakly.
cried Tom woefully.
said Tom xerophytically.
yolked Tom.
was Tom's yuletide comment.
said Tom zestfully.
was Tom's zippy rejoinder.
The above explanation was paraphrased from History of the Tom Swiftie. At the site he also explains the examples if you didn't get all of the puns :-)
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