"It's My Centennial!" Said Tom Swiftly

Word Ways, February 2010 | Go to article overview

"It's My Centennial!" Said Tom Swiftly


Starting in 1910, boys grew up devouring the adventures of Tom Swift, a sterling hero and natural scientific genius created by Edward Stratemeyer. Many of Tom's inventions predated technological developments in real life - electric cars, seacopters, and houses on wheels. In fact, some say that the Tom Swift tales laid the groundwork for American science-fiction.

In Stratemeyer's stories, Tom and his friends and enemies didn't always just say something. Occasionally they said something excitedly, sadly, hurriedly, or grimly. That was enough to inspire the game called Tom Swifties. The object is to match the adverb with the quotation to produce, in each case, a high-flying pun. Here are my favorite Tom Swifties (says Lederer puntificatingly):

* "I love pancakes," said Tom flippantly.

* "My pants are wrinkled," said Tom ironically.

* "I dropped me toothpaste," said Tom crestfallen.

* "I lost my flower," said Tom lackadaisically.

* "My favorite statue is the Venus de Milo," said Tom disarmingly.

* "I love reading Moby-Dick," said Tom superficially.

* "My glasses are all fogged up," said Tom optimistically.

* "I'll take the prisoner downstairs," said Tom condescendingly.

* "I'm sorry that my jet propulsion system didn't get the rocket to the moon," said Tom apologetically.

* "The girl has been kidnapped," said Tom mistakenly.

* "My stereo is finally fixed," said Tom ecstatically.

* "My family has a great future," said Tom clandestinely.

* "I passed my electrocardiogram," said Tom wholeheartedly.

* "What I do best on camping trips is sleep," said Tom intently.

* "What did that brain surgeon do to me?" said Tom absent-mindedly.

* "No ellipses, parabolas, or hyperbolas," said Tom laconically.

* "I manufacture table tops," said Tom counterproductively.

* "I'm wearing my wedding ring" said Tom with abandon.

* "I ain't talking to my mother's mother no more," said Tom ungrammatically.

* "I'm trying to get some air to circulate under the roof," said Tom fanatically.

* "Your Honor, you must be crazy," said Tom judgmentally.

* "I'm taller than I was yesterday," said Tom gruesomely.

* "That's a really ugly river beast," said Tom hypocritically.

* "I've just figured out that this is the right route to take," said Tom pathologically.

* "I won't tell you anything about my salivary glands," said Tom secretively.

* "I have just removed the defense mechanisms from this skunk," said Tom distinctly.

* "I'm going to kill Dracula," said Tom painstakingly.

* "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," said Tom rhetorically.

* "This just doesn't add up," said Tom nonplussed.

* "Be sure to feed kitty her cod liver oil," said Tom catatonically.

* "I wouldn't like to have anything but that Chinese soup," said Tom wantonly.

* "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Monsieur," said Tom mercifully.

* "In order to join the Airborne Medical Corps, I had to earn a Ph.D. and an M.D.," said Tom paradoxically.

Now that you see how Tom Swifties work, try to come up with a punderful adverb to complete each statement below. …

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