A little background, here. A month or two ago, some writer friends and I were having an e-discussion about literary style--which I consider to be grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, sentence and paragraph structure, word choice and usage, etc. The nuts-and-bolts of writing.
During these conversations, we wound up talking a bit about adverbs. (Writers always do.) And anytime you talk about adverbs and their overuse, someone mentions Swifties. Which took us down a whole nother path.
Then, a few weeks after that, Elizabeth Zelvin wrote an interesting SleuthSayers column about adverbs, and in the comments section afterward I mentioned to her the fact that I was thinking about doing an SS post specifically about Swifties. She seconded that idea, and--be careful what you wish for, Liz--here it is.
The term Swifty, as you probably know, comes from the popular series of books starring teenaged action-adventure hero Tom Swift, which always seemed to include passages like "Here I come," Tom shouted bravely, or "Dad helped me with my project," Tom admitted modestly. Eventually good old Tom, despite his bravery and modesty, became not only a hero but something of a literary oddity because of that style of writing, and readers began poking fun at all those pesky and repetitive adverbs. It probably began with "We must hurry," Tom said swiftly, or something like that, and soon folks were coming up with goofy phrases like "Let's visit the tombs," Tom said cryptically
and "I like modern art," Tom said abstractly. By definition, a Tom Swifty is a sentence linked by some kind of pun to the manner in which it is attributed.
Here's a long list of Swifties I put together, about half of them from combing the Internet and about half from my own not-so-swift brain. I warn you, this kind of thing can get old pretty fast, and although some of these are clever, others are just silly, and some of them you've probably heard or seen before. But I think all of 'em are fun. The ones I like the most are the ones with double meanings and a lot of wordplay. Also, I should mention that Swifties don't have to use adverbs. Whatever generally follows the format and is funny, or quirky, is fair game.
I kept inventing more of them and finding more that I wanted to include, but after considerable frustration I narrowed the list down (??) to 75. By the way, I tried to start with the worst first, so don't bail out too soon. Here we go:
"Stop that horse!" Tom cried woefully.
"Parsley, sage, and rosemary," Tom said timelessly.
"I got kicked out of China!" Tom said, disoriented.
"I'm tired of smiling," moaned Lisa.
"I'm tired of smiling," moaned Lisa.
"I'll dig another ditch around the castle," Tom said remotely.
"I slipped on the hill to Hogwarts," said J. K., rolling.
"I invented the Internet," Tom said allegorically.
"Bring me my soup," said Reese, witherspoon.
"Wasn't that Elvis I saw at the party?" Tom Enquired.
"I make table tops," Tom said counterproductively.
"I want to sketch Goldwater again," said Drew Barrymore.
"I never get to play the friend," said Willem, dafoe.
"For whom is the bell?" Tom extolled.
"Go on in, I'll just sit here and watch," Peter said benchley.
"I have no flowers," Tom said lackadaisically.
"Don't let me drown in Egypt!" Tom said, in denial.
"3.1416," Tom said piously.
"Shaken, not stirred," said Sean and Roger, bonding.
"I can see right through my father," Tom said transparently.
"Damn, I've struck oil!" Tom gushed crudely.
"I thought you were Madonna," said the lady, gaga.
"To split infinitives no man has split before," Tom boldly said.
"I must find Moby Dick," Ahab wailed.
"This too shall pass," Tom said constipatedly.
"Dorothy, if you go to Oz again, I'm going with you," Em barked.
"I hate this food," Tom said, whining and dining.
"I told you I'm not fonda this script," Hank said, madigan.
"I can't believe I ate the whole pineapple," Tom said dolefully.
"That doesn't look like an evergreen," Tom opined.
"It's better to steal things together," Tom corroborated.
"I left my car in Phoenix," Tom said, Joaquin.
"I can't, I can't," Tom recanted.
"I'm marryin' Marian," said Robin, robbin'.
"That grizzly is climbing the tree after me," Tom said overbearingly.
"I like movies Down Under," Tom said quiggly.
"Honey, put on that see-through thing," Tom said negligently.
"I left the Xena the crime," said Lucy lawlessly.
"I collided with my bed," Tom said rambunctiously.
"I stepped on Harriet Beecher's toe," said Uncle Tom, gabbin'.
"This girl is gone," said Gillian, fleein'.
"Someone stole my movie camera!" Tom bellowed and howled.
"I play a drunk in this movie," said Hugo, weaving.
"I'm sailing with Noah," said Alan, arkin'.
"That's a big shark," Tom said superficially.
"She set my car on fire and left me," Burt said, smoky and abandoned.
"No more pastries for me," Tom de-eclaired.
"Practice, practice," said Isaac sternly.
"I'm rereading the second Gospel," Tom remarked.
"We don't have a home-run hitter," Tom said ruthlessly.
"That was a tasty hen," said the Roman, gladiator.
"Charles should shorten his name," Tom chuckled.
"Look at that monster's sandals," Tom said, in a thing-thong voice.
"I know I'm going to hit another bad drive," Tom forewarned.
"I'm a singer," said Taylor swiftly.
"Call me Hot Lips," said Loretta switly.
"I will not finish in fifth place," Tom held forth.
"Call me Fitz," F. said, scott free.
"I'm sick of this lisp," Tom said thickly.
"I'll probably do a test drive before the race," Tom prezoomed.
"My car's in the shop," said Christopher, walken.
"I'm going to see Elijah," said Joanne, woodward.
"I'm staying right here," said William, holden.
"I've already left," said Faye, dunaway.
"Emily's put on weight," Tom said emphatically.
"Did you steal that sunscreen?" Tom demanded, in a copper tone.
"It's the bawdiest house on the prairie," said Laura Ingalls, wilder.
"That's the last time I pet a lion," Tom said offhandedly.
"I'll think about that tomorrow," Scarlett said vivienleigh.
"An African American woman beat me at tennis," Tom said serenely.
"I'm a scientologist," Tom said, cruising.
"Too bad I can't castle now," Tom said, in Czech.
"I need a man," Eve said adamantly.
"This is mutiny!" Tom said bountifully.
If you're still with me, and if that's not enough . . . the following are my Top Twenty Favorites. Again, some of these I dreamed up in weak moments and others I lifted swiftly from the Web:
"I didn't know I got airsick," Tom said, heaving it aloft.
"Who's Victor Hugo?" asked Les miserably.
"I saw a mockingbird peck Gregory," Tom said harperly.
"Look at those pasties twirl," Tom said fastidiously.
"I punched him in the stomach three times," Tom said triumphantly.
"Last night I dreamed I went to the movies," Laura said manderley.
"You can be my guest host," said Ellen, to begeneres.
"I like the Venus de Milo," Tom said disarmingly.
"What's that in the punchbowl?" Tom said, deterred.
"Y'all, I'm leavin'," said Dolly, partin'.
"I didn't do anything!" Adam cried fruitlessly.
"I dropped the toothpaste," Tom said, crestfallen.
"I ate two cans of American beans," said Vladimir, putin.
"Arghhhhh," Dracula said, painstakingly.
"I'm having an affair with my gamekeeper," said the lady chattily.
"Whiskey gives me gas," Doc Holliday said, with an earp.
"About hot dogs, my dear, I don't give a damn," Tom said frankly.
"One out of ten bottoms is too big for an airplane seat," Tom said asininely.
"We didn't inhale," Bill and Hillary announced jointly.
"These aren't the droids you're looking for," Tom said forcefully.
Okay, so I never grew up. What can I tell you?
("Believe me, you don't want to read the hundreds I left out," John said, listlessly.)
Now . . . what are your favorite Swifties?
See you next time.