Tom Swifties are a form of wordplay
based on the narrative style of the Tom Swift
books and often overlooked by (...er...) pundits
or dismissed as juvenille. On the contrary, they're highly structured and have many variations. The formula is simple: a Tom Swifty is composed of a quote, spoken by Tom, and an adverb with a direct relation to a target in the quote. As an example of a very basic Swifty:
"It sometimes gets lonely here on the farm," said Tom sheepishly.
A proper Swifty will ellicit a groan of disdain, but one well constructed will delight any fan of puns.
Of course, there are many variations. Here's a list of a few:
- Synonymy: "I wish I were taller," Tom said longingly.
- Antonymy: "I wish I were taller," Tom said shortly.
- Hyponymy: "I’ll have the lamb," Tom said sheepishly.
- Metonymy: "I hate pizza," Tom said crustily.
- Instrument: "I’m being crucified," Tom said crossly.
- Domain: "I hate chemistry," Tom said acidly.
- Quality: "There’s too much tabasco in this chili," Tom said hotly.
- Paraphrase: "It’s a unit of electric current," said Tom amply.
- Pragmatic: "This boat leaks," said Tom balefully.
And there's more fun with prefixes, suffixes, and subtle word compounds:
- "Yes, my lobotomy was successful," said Tom absent-mindedly. (absent, mind)
- "I got this ballpoint pen from a Yugoslav friend," said Tom acerbically. (a, serb, bic)
- "I had to fire my first mate when she got too heavy for the boat," said Tom excruciatingly. (ex, crew, she, ate)
- "Oh goody! Another blackout!" said Tom delightedly.
- "Boy, that sure took the wind out of my sails!" said Tom disgustedly.
- "Let me read that telegraph again," said Tom remorsefully.
And then, if you want to get really
tricky, start incorporating other languages:
- "Yes, we sell worms," Tom verified. (ver is worm in French)
- "Forward march! Eins! Zwei! Drei! Funf! Eins! Zwei! Drei! Funf!" Tom barked fearlessly. (fier, German for four and a homophone of "fear", is missing from his counting.)
Play with it on your own for a while. It's fun and will be sure to annoy those around you for hours on end. If you can't think of any on your own, here's a few more to get you started:
"I'd like to thank the following little web pages," said Hotel shortsightedly.
- "I just adore camping," said Tom intensely.
- "The pastrycook life is the life for me," said Tom piously.
- "Help! I'm being suffocated by a python," said Tom coyly.
- "I prefer an automatic transmission for my car," said Tom shiftlessly.
- "I'll never drink so much Seagrams again," said Tom wryly.
- "Someone removed all the twos from this deck," Tom deduced.
- "Let us leave," said Tom crisply.
- "I'm dying!" Tom croaked.
- "I seem to be losing my marbles," said Tom scatalogically.
- "I've been claiming unemployment benefit for years," said Tom dolefully.
- "This speech just goes on and on and on and..." Tom said energizingly.
- "AUUGGH! I've been SHOT in the CHEST!" Tom shouted wholeheartedly.
- Excalibre humbly suggests: "Stay out of the kitchen while I'm baking," said Tom tartly.
- and jt adds this hilarious bit: "My mother slashed her wrists," Tom mumbled.