Tom Swifties


As you can see from my Shelfari (which has been moved to the left-hand side of the screen), one of the many books I’m currently reading is Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, by David Lubar. Being the nerdy word people that we are in my family, I immediately keyed in on the “Tom Swifties” from Chapter 5. Here’s a little background:

One of the most popular series from long ago was Tom Swift. The key
thing about Tom, for our purposes, was that he never just said
anything. the writer was always ramping thing up. Tom would ‘exclaim
surprisedly’ or ‘shout vigorously.’

Tom’s speech habits became so well known that people started making fun of
them. it turned into a word game. (34)

Here are a few Tom Swifties from Sleeping Freshmen:

“I’d like a hot dog,” Tom said frankly.
“Stop this horse,” Tom said haltingly.
“They’re building new apartments down the road,” Tom said constructively. (34)

If nothing else, they’re an exercise in adverb use. Although, I did hear once, in one of my creative writing classes, that if writers are using many adverbs, then they’re not using the right verbs. Nevertheless, I found Tom Swifties to be interesting.

Some fun ones that my family came up with:

  • “That’s my underwear,” Tom said briefly.
  • “I suppose you want some ice cream,” she spat coldly.
  • “Nemo’s my movie,” she said selfishly.

Isn’t that fun? Try your own.

All quotes from Lubar, D. 2005. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. New York: Speak.

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