Weekend Word Wrap: Tom Swifties
Some years ago, I was reading a book of short stories called Birds of America, by one of my favorite authors, Lorrie Moore, and happened upon my first Tom Swifty. In the story, "Community Life," a few of Moore's characters are librarians and pass their downtime at work thinking up good ones like, "I have to go to the hardware store, he said wrenchingly" or "There's never been an accident, she said recklessly."
The phrase "Tom Swifty" was coined in the 1920s and comes from a series of adventure books about a boy named "“ surprise, surprise "“ Tom Swift, who regularly employed a qualifying adverb like "quickly" or "jokingly" when he spoke.
The series was written by one Victor Appleton, who you might think you've never read. But there you'd be wrong, as Appleton was a penname for good old Edward Stratemeyer, the creator of none other than the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew.
To create a "true" Tom Swifty, all you need do is make a pun out of your qualifying adverb, such as Lorrie Moore did with "This hot dog's awful, she said frankly."
So go ahead, try one. They're easy. And once you start, you'll be hooked, he said, casting about for his rod and reel. Okay, so that wasn't a true Tom Swifty as there was no adverb. So I'll leave you to your long weekend with this one, then: "David! Cut it out already, his readers said sharply."