20 November 2011


A world renounced romantic comedy author, Susan Elizabeth Phillips runs the game in the romance genre. Phillips is one of the biggest women’s fiction stars soaring onto the New York Times bestseller list with Dream a Little Dream. She’s the only four-time recipient of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Favorite Book of the Year Award.

Pickwick and Weller
Pickwick and Weller
My editor, writer, friend Sharon has a quick eye for writing goofs and spotted the above from BookPerk.com. Pity the world renounced one of her favorite writers, who's actually a five-time recipient of RWA’s Favorite Book of the Year Award.

I've been receiving silliness and word play in my eMail, which I'll share with readers. Along with many writers, I enjoy word play, a devil's playground for an idle mind.


Once earlier, I discussed spoonerisms, but today I'll mention wellerisms, derived from Charles Dickens's first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1836-1837). Samuel Pickwick's man's man Weller was sort of a cockney Sancho Panza to his employer's Don Quixote. Sam Weller and his father Tony became known for pithy remarks and proverbs. By 1839, the popular valet had become a sensation resulting in Weller merchandise, puzzles, joke books, and even bootleg copies of his stories.

Wellerisms center around a quotation, a cliché, or sometimes a proverb, misapplied with humorous effect. Examples of wellerisms include:

  • "It comes back to me now," said the prisoner, spitting into the wind.
  • "Remarkable," said the teacher, trying out her new dry-erase board.
  • "We'll have to rehearse that," said the undertaker as the body tumbled from the coffin.
  • "So I see," said the blind carpenter as he picked up his hammer and saw.
  • "Is this a hearing?" asked the deaf juror judgmentally.
Tom Swift
Tom Swift, Jr.

The once popular adverbial Tom Swifties are a variant of wellerisms. For example:
  • "Let's dig up that body," said Tom gravely.
  • "I bet you have no diamonds, clubs, or spades," said Tom heartlessly.
  • "This tastes bad, Herb," said Tom sagely.

More Play and Burning Questions
  • What disease did cured ham actually have?
  • Why do actors appear in a movie but on TV?
  • Why is 'bra' singular and 'panties' plural?
  • How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?
  • Why does a round pizza come in a square box?
  • Do the alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have the same tune?
    • Why did you just try singing the two songs above?
  • Why do you have to 'put your two cents in', but it's only a 'penny for your thoughts'? Where's that extra penny going?
  • Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?
  • How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?
  • Why is it that people say they 'slept like a baby' when babies wake up like every two hours?
    • Did they cry, spit, and scream?
  • Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?
  • Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They're going to see you naked anyway.
  • Why do toasters have a setting that burns toast to a horrible crisp, which no decent human being would eat?
  • If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a stupid song about him?
    Sam Weller
    Sam Weller
  • If the professor on Gilligan's Island can make a radio out of a coconut, why can't he fix a hole in a boat?
  • Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours? They're both dogs.
  • If Wile E. Coyote had enough money to buy all that Acme junk, why didn't he just buy dinner?
  • Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?
  • If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what is baby oil made from?
  • If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?
  • Why do they call it an asteroid when it's outside the hemisphere, but call it a hemorrhoid when it's in your bottom?
  • Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are going dead?
  • Why do banks charge a fee for insufficient funds when they know you don't have enough money?
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do they use sterilized needles for execution by lethal injection?
  • Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?
  • Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
  • Whose idea was it to put 'S's in the word 'lisps'?
  • Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new to eat will have materialized?
  • Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?
  • Why can't men open plastic bags in the vegetable section of grocery stores?
  • How do those dead bugs get into enclosed light fixtures?
  • Why is it whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table, you manage to knock something else over?
  • In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?
  • How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

Ingrid Bergman said, "A kiss is a lovely trick, designed by nature, to stop speech when words become superfluous." Before y'all tell me to kiss off, I'll stop speaking.


  1. Leigh, my email overflows with this type of material too, but it was fun to see so many of them listed together.

  2. Fran, that was a fun list, and yes I did sing both songs.

  3. Leigh

    Is it a wellerism to leave off your byline? Just sayin...


  4. As you know, Leigh, I love this kind of thing. Good job!

    "And I like Venus de Milo," he said disarmingly.

  5. And why do we say "it's always in the last place you look?" When you find a lost item do you think. "Well. Here it is. You know, I think I'll look in one more place anyway."

    Also -- why do we say "if I don't see you again, have a great vacation." I mean, what does seeing you again have to do with my vacation anyway?

    Oh well, back to editing Tuesday's piece.

  6. "Rob, I forgot my byline," Tom said anonymousLeigh.

  7. Another literary wellerism:

    "'A body can get used to anything, even to being hanged,' as the Irishman said," from Anne of Green Gables

  8. Some actual wellers from Dickens:

    “Out vith it, as the father said to his child, when he swallowed a farden.”

    “How are you, ma’am?” said Mr. Weller. “Wery glad to see you, indeed, and hope our acquaintance may be a long ‘un, as the gen’l'm’n said to the fi’ p'un’ note.”

    “All good feelin’, sir– the wery best intentions, as the gen’l'm’n said ven he run away from his wife ‘cos she seemed unhappy with him,” replied Mr. Weller.

    “There; now we look compact and comfortable, as the father said ven he cut his little boy’s head off, to cure him o’ squintin’.”

    “Yes, but that ain’t all,” said Sam, […] “vich I call addin’ insult to injury, as the parrot said ven they not only took him from his native land, but made him talk the English langwidge arterwards.”

    “Sorry to do anythin’ as may cause an interruption to such wery pleasant proceedin’s, as the king said wen he dissolved the parliament,” interposed Mr. Weller, who had been peeping through the glass door.

  9. Children enjoy wellerisms too.

    "Don’t move, I’ve got you covered," the wallpaper said to the wall. "Meet you at the corner," replied the wall. "I hope I made myself clear," said the window.

  10. Oops! Rob is right– I forgot my byline! Thanks for the catch, Rob. (ignoring snarky Velma)

    Thanks, Fran and RT. I confessed I hummed the tunes too.

    Dale and John, thanks for getting the new wellerisms ball rolling. Thanks anon and tam.

    "Is that L.M. Montgomery's ghost writer?" he asked sepulchrally.

    Here are two more favorite wellerisms"

    "Each moment makes thee dearer," as the parsimonious tradesman said to his extravagant wife.

    "Capital punishment," as the boy said when the teacher seated him with the girls.

  11. "I've got a great idea for a novel!" wailed Herman Mellville. "Not as good as my idea," whined John Steinbeck. "I think I have you both beat," said Nathaniel Hawthorne peakedly.

  12. (laughing) Great ones! Dale and the rest of you are on a roll!

  13. A good collection. Delightful!

  14. Well, well, well, I would have never dreamed I would experience such overwhelming joy and laughter "out of the blue" like this. My name is Robb Weller and I have been accused continually by family and friends alike for word playing and being punny with sayings, sometimes to their discuss. It has been a compulsion of mine for as long as I can remember. Humour is a wonderful medicine, so I, whenever the opportunity arises, bring what maybe not be such a positive environment, to one of joy and laughter...no matter how silly it may seem to some.
    I would like to say thank you for sharing joy and laughter with me through this site, it is what I really need at this time.
    This morning I was initially looking into the character of Sam Weller, because a friend introduced me to The Pickwick Papers. My friend was one to go on and on with word play and being very punny, just a whole lot of fun. As it has turned out I have discovered Wellerisms...WOW...if I did not know Sam Weller was a fictitious character I would think we were related. Anyway, when there is not any laughter things in this world can turn quite negative at times. Perhaps that is why it appropriately came to me "out of the blue", thanks. warmest regards, Robb Weller

  15. I thought you might be interested in the news that Wellerisms are featured in my forthcoming novel Death and Mr Pickwick, which explores the origins and history of Charles Dickens's first novel, The Pickwick Papers. Sam Weller's use of these bizarre phrases was inspired by the wordplay of an actor called Sam Vale, who is one of the characters in my novel. (Although it has to be said that Vale was not the first to indulge in this kind of wordplay. The earliest use of a Wellerism in England is thought to be in an account of the 7th century Battle of Maserfield.) Further information about my novel can be found at www.deathandmpickwick.com

  16. Robb and Anon, welcome to SleuthSayers.

    Stephen, thanks for bringing your book to our attention. Readers, note there is an error in the URL above. It should read:


Welcome. Please feel free to comment.

Our corporate secretary is notoriously lax when it comes to comments trapped in the spam folder. It may take Velma a few days to notice, usually after digging in a bottom drawer for a packet of seamed hose, a .38, her flask, or a cigarette.

She’s also sarcastically flip-lipped, but where else can a P.I. find a gal who can wield a candlestick phone, a typewriter, and a gat all at the same time? So bear with us, we value your comment. Once she finishes her Fatima Long Gold.

You can format HTML codes of <b>bold</b>, <i>italics</i>, and links: <a href="https://about.me/SleuthSayers">SleuthSayers</a>