Tom Swifties are puns that turn adverbs into punchlines.
They take their name from a series of books that began publication in 1910. (They’re still going to this day.) The main character, Tom Swift, is a young adventurer and inventor, but the early authors of the series, (there were several), had an aversion to the repetitive use of the word “said” so padded out their dialogue with adverbs, with the archetypal example being “‘We must hurry,’ said Tom swiftly.” Somewhere along the way, the L was dropped, Tom Swiftly became Tom Swifty, and a humorous meme was born.
There are whole websites devoted to to Tom Swifities, but in my book they generally take three forms:
“The thermostat is set too high,” said Tom heatedly.
“I can’t find the oranges,” said Tom fruitlessly.
“I only have diamonds, clubs and spades,” said Tom heartlessly.
“I need a pencil sharpener,” said Tom bluntly.
“I decided to come back to the group,” Tom rejoined.
“I believe there were 57,861 bees in that swarm,” Tom recounted.
“It’s not fair!” said Tom darkly.
“Pass me the shellfish,” said Tom crabbily.
“We just struck oil!” Tom gushed.
“I’ll have another Martini,” said Tom dryly.
“Pass me another chip” said Tom crisply.
“I’m wearing a ribbon around my arm,” said Tom with abandon.
“Baa,” said Tom sheepishly.
“Stay away from that turtle!” Tom snapped.
“I’m throwing this soup on the ground!” said Tom with wanton disregard.
“Don’t you love sleeping outdoors,” Tom said intently.
“Let’s gather up the rope,” said Tom coyly.
“Welcome to the mausoleum,” said Tom cryptically.
“I have a split personality,” said Tom, being frank.
“This must be an aerobics class,” Tom worked out.
“Don’t add too much water,” said Tom with great concentration.
“I’m thinking of a number between seven and nine,” said Tom considerately.
“I manufacture tabletops for shops,” said Tom counterproductively.
“Get to the back of the ship!” Tom said sternly.
“I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically.
“I love hot dogs,” said Tom with relish.
“When I got to the store I forgot what I needed,” Tom said listlessly.
“I want my money back, and then some!” said Tom with interest.
“If you want me, I shall be in the attic,” Tom said loftily.
“I think I may be bulimic,” Tom said, bringing it up again.
Puns you have to think about
“I lost my trousers,” said Tom expansively.
“I haven’t had any tooth decay yet,” said Tom precariously.
“We can’t have this and eat it too,” said Tom archaically.
“I used to command a battalion of German ants,” said Tom exuberantly.
And my all-time favourite …
Are you ready for this?
(It’s best said out loud …)
“I own a paddy-field 1,760 yards long,” Tom said with a wry smile.