Tom Swifties

After Dad and I dropped off Mom at the airport this past Tuesday, we somehow got to talking about Stephen King as a writer, and then King’s book On Writing, and then his quote, “Adverbs are not your friends,” and then it was only a short step to Tom Swifties, the old game (often included on the Boys’ Life “Think and Grin” page alongside Pedro the Burro cartoons) where you double-use an adverb humorously to get a laugh or at least a wry smile. We couldn’t remember any, but Dad suggested that we could easily make some up. One of his early ones was “What the heck are you doing!? Tom asked questioningly,” but after I set him straight that, no, Dad, you have to make it funny, he ended up making some rather good ones. Here are two to start us off, then we can carry on in the comments, eh?

From Dad: “I’d like my sandwich on pumpernickel, please,” Tom said wryly.

From me: “You row and I’ll man the rudder,” Tom said sternly.

Let’s go!

PatrickGames08/20/04 40 comments


Patrick • 08/23/04 2:46 PM:

“I hearby bequeath all my possessions to my heirs,” Tom said willingly.

Patrick • 08/23/04 2:47 PM:

“You can’t lock me away! I’m not crazy!” Tom said admittedly.

Patrick • 08/23/04 2:49 PM:

“Ow! I keep hitting my head on this double-decker bed,” Tom said rambunctiously.

Dad • 08/24/04 11:41 AM:

“I’ll mix that bread dough,” Tom said needfully.

Patrick • 08/25/04 12:51 AM:

“I stayed up all night studying for this exam,” Tom said finally.

Patrick • 08/25/04 10:26 AM:

“I thought I heard something,” Tom said eerily.

Patrick • 08/25/04 10:28 AM:

“Give me five!” Tom said handsomely.

Patrick • 08/25/04 10:51 AM:

“They’ve left me all alone to comment on my own entry,” Patrick said with abandon.

David • 08/25/04 12:45 PM:

“Golly Gee, I can’t seem to open up the window!” Tom said painfully.

David • 08/25/04 12:47 PM:

“I’m all out of Metamucil,” Tom said regularly.

David • 08/25/04 12:58 PM:

“I can’t believe I’m stranded here on this island for seven days” Tom said weakly.

Patrick • 08/26/04 1:29 AM:

“I bought you a gift,” Tom said presently.

Dave, you need to pare down a bit. What’s all this “golly gee” and who cares about an island and being stranded when your whole gag is the weak/week homonym? And why would one be stranded on an island for seven days (and know it in advance)? And wouldn’t Tom say “I’m all out of Metamucil” irregularly? Still, thank you for your efforts.

Dad • 08/26/04 2:39 PM:

“Patrick, why are you so negative,” Tom said positively.

I’ll admit that “golly gee” doesn’t sound too painful, but it’s none of your business where Tom spends his weeks. And maybe those who marooned Tom on the island told him they’d be back in 7 days. And if he just ran out of Metamucil, he wouldn’t be irregular just yet.

Finally, you’re really messing with our sense of time with “Tom said presently.” How can he have said it already, yet still be about to say it?

David • 08/26/04 3:47 PM:

I wrote golly gee as a joke - seeing as last time I wrote something ever-so-slightly more offensive on this site, Pat yelled at me to watch my language. That’s why.

I also was going to comment on the usage of presently, but didn’t want to come across as critical.

Patrick • 08/26/04 4:03 PM:

1) I have no recollection of being critical of you using offensive language on this site. My point about “golly gee” is that it is extraneous. Tom Swifties have to be quick. No unnecessary words. A better version of your admittedly clever phrase would be, simply, “I can’t open this window,” Tom said painfully. Dad’s version, of course, would be, “In spite of my best efforts I am repeatedly failing in my attempts to push open this sticky transparent glass apparatus in the wall of my house,” Tom said painfully.

2) That’s what’s so funny about my use of presently. Maybe you two aren’t quite understanding the concept of Tom Swifties. You’re supposed to misuse adverbs!

3) Instead of thanking me for my valuable input to help you improve your Tom Swiftiness, all I get from you is grief.

4) Dad, if Tom ran out of Metamucil, he wouldn’t care until he got irregular again. If it were Jane Swifty, then, yeah, she’d notice she was out and buy some more before crisis time, but Tom is a man. He wouldn’t think about it until he needed it.

5) “Would you prefer a Chateau Blanc or a Rose?” asked Tom whiningly.

Patrick • 08/26/04 6:29 PM:

“I can never hit those bowling pins!” Tom said gutturally.

Patrick • 08/26/04 6:31 PM:

“Watch me do a one-and-a-half,” Tom said flippantly.

Patrick • 08/26/04 6:33 PM:

“Congratulations, your mortgage has been approved,” Tom said lonesomely.

Dad • 08/26/04 9:41 PM:

If you want short, you should have said, “Come in, said Tom admittedly.”

The International Tom Swiftey Association (ITSA) does not specify that the adverb be used in a grammatically incorrect way. Ideally, it’s the double meaning of the pun or homonym that provides the humor. It’s easy to get it right. You could have said, “I bought you a gift, Tom would say presently.”

“That angle is definitely greater than 90 degrees,” Tom said obtusely.

Dad • 08/26/04 9:46 PM:

“Your performance is only average,” Tom said meanly.

Dad • 08/27/04 9:15 AM:

“Don’t overload that hay wagon,” Tom said balefully.

Dad • 08/27/04 5:25 PM:

“Help me, I’ve just been hit by a steamroller,” Tom said flatly.

Dad • 08/27/04 5:27 PM:

“How can I get these wrinkles out of my clothes?” Tom asked ironically.

Patrick • 08/27/04 11:13 PM:

“2-4-6-8. Who do we appreciate?” Tom said winsomely.

David • 08/28/04 10:45 AM:

“This steak is under cooked,” Tom said rarely.

David • 08/28/04 10:48 AM:

“Pass the vodka,” Tom said absolutely.

Dan • 09/08/04 1:22 PM:

“I need more soap!” Tom said suddenly.

Dad • 09/08/04 2:17 PM:

“Does this grass need to be watered?” Tom asked, soddenly.

Dan • 09/08/04 3:41 PM:

“This grass looks like a rug,” Tom said, soddenly.

Dan • 09/08/04 3:43 PM:

“If you must know, my favorite font is Garamond,” Tom said seriftitiously.

Dan • 09/08/04 3:44 PM:

“I hate Helvetica,” Tom said, sans any expression.

Patrick • 09/08/04 11:12 PM:

“Giddyup!” Tom said spuriously.

Dad • 09/09/04 9:46 PM:

“Giddyup!” Tom said hoarsely.

Patrick • 09/13/04 11:44 AM:

“Neigh!” Tom said hoarsely.

Dad • 09/14/04 12:15 AM:

“Let me make a modest proposal,” Tom said swiftly.

Patrick • 10/09/04 12:56 PM:

“Do you want more Parmesan on your pasta?” Tom said gratingly.

Dad • 03/11/06 8:04 PM:

Jeopardy had a Tom Swifty category last week, where the contestants had to name the adverb being described. I quickly joted down the words, but didn’t copy the whole “answer.” They went something like:

This recipe may be missing some rosemary, parsely, or thime, Tom said sagely.

I found some unrefined oil, Tom said crudely.

My hand contains only clubs, spades, and diamonds, Tom said heartlessly.

You sure make good coffe, Tom said perkily.

I have a frog in my throat, Tom said hoarsely.

You may begin your criticism now.

Patrick • 03/14/06 2:09 PM:

I like all of the Jeopardy Swifties except the Frog in Throat Hoarsely thing. What? You must have copied that down wrong, no?

So I went looking for the real thing Alex Trebek said. First, I found this site, which catalogues all the Jeopardy episodes, and there was a David Madden, from New Jersey, on the apparent first “Tom Swiftie” episode. This David Madden doesn’t look entirely unlike our own David Madden (except for the hair), and he won nineteen times. I am now vaguely remembering him, I think.

So anyway, I then found the episode Dad was referring to and was sorely disappointed in the way they made the “answers” so easy. For instance, the $2000 clue, which Dad had remembered wrong:

When Tom yelled, “Neigh! Neigh! A thousand times neigh!” it was in this rough way, as if he had a sore throat.

Why don’t you just give the “question” away, Alex? Note, too, that this is just a bloated version of the one I had posted here on 9/13/04.

Patrick • 05/29/06 11:34 PM:

“I did it my way,” Tom said Frankly.

Dad • 06/05/06 5:37 PM:

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” Tom said hellishly.

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

Please capitalize your name properly and use the same information each time you comment. We will not send you spam, and your email address will not be posted.

Remember me?


Related Entries
  1. Feeling Badly
    Do you feel badly? Are you a bad feeler? Is it in your hands or in your heart?