Quick Look at Swifties
pun lovers only!
may think this column is a little stupid, and you're probably right. But it's not
my fault. The blame lies with a couple of friends who, knowing my love affair with
words, turned me on to "Swifties." In essence, they are a particularly low form
of pun, in which the adverb plays on the rest of the sentence.
Here are a few examples (with explanations. Hereafter you're on your own in understanding
"The prisoner is climbing down
the wall," said Tom condescendingly. (The prisoner climbing down the wall is a "con"
"I can't believe I ate the whole pineapple,"
said Tom dolefully. (Dole being the brand of pineapple that had made him "full.")
"The doctor had to remove my left auricle
and ventricle," said Tom half-heartedly. (After surgery, he was left with half a
Who is Tom Swift?
These quips take their name from Tom Swift, a
boy's adventure hero created by writer Edward L. Stratemeyer, under the pseudonym
Victor Appleton. Tom was a remarkable young man. During his teen years, he invented
an air glider, an electric locomotive and an aerial warship, among other things.
In addition, he was heroic, courageous
and pure in nature. He was always the good guy who rescued the endangered girl and
fought against evil of every form. His only fault was that he rarely passed a remark
without a qualifying adverb, such as "Tom added eagerly" or "Tom said jokingly."
To illustrate, the following is an
actual quote from one of the books.
Tom, his father and a railway president
were discussing an agreement for the railroad to pay Tom $100,000 to develop a better
electric locomotive. "It is eminently satisfactory," said Mr. Swift, quietly. "I
will do my very best," agreed Tom, warmly. "There's nothing wrong with the agreement,"
declared Ned Newton, with confidence.
The punning Swifties arose as a pastiche
("ridicule" or "imitation") of this stilted conversation.
Other examples of Swifties I like include:
"I love hot dogs," said Tom with relish.
"Don't let me drown in Egypt," pleaded
Tom, deep in denial.
"Elvis is dead," said Tom expressly.
"That statue of Venus is my favorite,"
said Tom disarmingly.
"I've only enough carpet for the hall
and landing," said Tom with a blank stare.
"This is the real male goose," said
Tom, producing the propaganda.
You may note that there is no apparent
beneficial or profound lesson to be learned from all this, except possibly a reminder
that we communicate more effectively with other folks when we don't use stuffy or
Further, as an exercise in mental stimulation,
I've discovered it is enjoyable to make up one's own Swifties. I came up with these:
"My nasolacrimal ducts are stopped
up," said Tom tearfully.
"My birthday is tomorrow," said the
eight-year-old Tom benignly (be-nine-ly).
"I hope my eyes will soon adapt to
this fog," said Tom optimistically.
Please accept my apologies for taking
up your time with such a trivial subject. I just couldn't resist sharing.
OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S
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Optometric Management, Issue: May 2006