Sunday, June 7, 2009

Good Ole Tom Swift

A Tom Swifty is a Wellerism in which an adverb relates both properly and punningly to a sentence of reported speech. This is no doubt easier to see from some examples -

“I manufacture table tops,” said Tom counterproductively.
“Who discovered radium?” asked Marie curiously.
“Just parsley, sage and rosemary,” said Tom timelessly.
“This sea-spray will ruin all the metal-work,” said Tom mistrustfully
“I can’t tell you how much it resembles a table,” said Tom veritably.
“Show no mercy killing the vampire,” said Tom painstakingly.
“It keeps my hair in place,” said Alice with abandon.

The quip takes its name from Tom Swift, a boy's adventure hero created by the prolific American writer Edward L. Stratemeyer. Under the pseudonym Victor Appleton, he published a series of books featuring the young Tom Swift. Tom Swift rarely passed a remark without a qualifying adverb as "Tom added eagerly" or "Tom said jokingly". The play on words discussed here arose as a pastiche of this, coming to be known by the term Tom Swifty.

Please feel free to email me your examples. Here are a few of my favorites. (Why do these seem to arrive in my mind at 2am?)

"GM went bankrupt so I bought a Honda." Tom said of his own accord.

"Get to the back of the boat!" Tom said sternly.

"Alright, I'll give you back the pick-up I borrowed", said Tom, truculently.

“ Today is D-Day", said Ike to Norm and Dee.

"I refuse to change the title of my film--it will be called Feline Chainsaw Massacre" Tom said categorically.

"That is an Irish conifer," Tom opined.

"I'll just have to kill the king," Reggie sighed.

And three of my all-time favorites - let the last one roll deliciously through your mind.

"May I have this dance?" Fred asked gingerly.

"I get to read 'Ulysses' again!" Tom rejoiced.

"She's got my photo in her locket," said Tom independently.

1 comment:

  1. Why are word-inspired people usually being groaned at by their less perceptive friends?