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Tom Swifties, part 1

picture of first Tom Swift book

"During the early part of the 20th century, boys and girls grew up devouring the adventures of Tom Swift, a sterling young hero created by Edward Stratemeyer," wrote Richard Lederer in his book Get Thee to a Punnery. The first book in the series, Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle, published in 1910, was the first of a number written by ghostwriters, all of whom published under the pseudonym Victor Appleton. Tom and his friends and enemies never just said something — they always said it excitedly or sadly or hurriedly. An off-shoot of those books is an adverbial pun game known as Tom Swifties. The object of the game is to match an adverb with a statement to produce hilarious puns.

Some of these puns are pretty deep and even multilayered. So if you love puns, give yourself plenty of time to enjoy these to the max. Since the list of Tom Swifties I have is so long, I'm breaking it into several posts. Today's post is adverbs starting with the letters a — j.

I'll start you off with a trio of related Tom Swifty puns, then the rest are in alphabetical order, by the adverbs used.

"My stereo is broken," said Tom disconsolately.
"My stereo's half-fixed," said Tom monotonously.
"My stereo sounds great now," said Tom ecstatically.

"I can take or leave modern painting," said Tom abstractly.

"No, Eve! Don't eat that fruit," said Tom adamantly.

"I think I'm back from my lobotomy," said Tom absentmindedly.

"Thou canst not have this and eat it too," said Tom archaically.

"England is okay, except there seems to be at least one insect in every restroom," said Tom aloofly.

"This boat leaks," said Tom balefully.

"I'll give you a haircut you'll NEVER forget!" said Tom barbarously.

"I'm ashamed to admit I keep banging my head on things," said Tom bashfully.

"When I get stung, I want revenge," said Tom begrudgingly.

"I'm sure we can fool them into thinking this is pollen," said Tom beguilingly.

"I'm being sent down to the minors," said Tom beleagueredly.

"I wouldn't give that hornet any higher than a 5," said Tom beratingly.

"How am I supposed to know what to play? There's nothing on this staff paper!" Tom noted blankly.

"I need a pencil sharpener right now," said Tom bluntly.

"I'll use a different font style," said Tom boldly.

"Ho, hum ... I still haven't struck oil," said Tom boringly.

"This is mutiny!" said Tom bountifully.

"The stock market's going up," said Tom bullishly.

"So, where could I get a new computer like this" said Tom calculatingly.

"Rowing the boat won't hurt your hands," said Tom callously.

"The symphony wasn't played!" cried Tom disconcertedly.

"Your new dress looks great with all those animal hairs all over it?" said Tom cattily, yet doggedly.

"I've run out of laundry detergent," said Tom cheerlessly.

"Don't tell them I said so, but your family in Scotland has a great future," said Tom clandestinely.

"Oh, come on. We could teach the world to sing," said Tom coaxingly.

"You've got all the blankets," said Tom coldly.

"I'll take the wretched prisoner downstairs," said Tom condescendingly.

"The escaped prisoner is camping in the woods," said Tom contentedly.

"I'm writing a poem extolling the rebels in Nicaragua," said Tom controversially.

"We Cancers don't believe in horoscopes," Tom asked crabbily.

"Give me some more macaroni and cheese, and I'll tell you the secret," said Tom craftily.

"Oh, no! I've dropped my toothpaste," said Tom crestfallenly.

"I've struck oil," said Tom crudely.

"I hate pies with crumb bases," said Tom crustily.

"Want to visit some tombs?" asked Tom cryptically.

"I don't want to watch the eclipse," said Tom darkly.

"Let those bugs just try to get in here!" said Tom defiantly.

"Of course you'll graduate," said Tom diplomatically.

"I was removed from office," said Tom disappointedly.

"Believe it or not, my favorite statue is Venus de Milo," said Tom disarmingly.

"That sure took the wind out of my sails!" said Tom disgustedly.

"This place doesn't smell bad anymore," said Tom distinctly.

"I just returned from China," said Tom disorientedly. (Rob the ivman has said this twice in the past.)

"My hair's been cut off," said Tom distressfully.

"Roll over, boy! Come on – roll over! ROLL OVER!!!" Tom said doggedly.

"I can't eat another bite of pineapple," said Tom dolefully.

"I could stand a Coca-Cola about now," said Tom dryly.

"I'll pay off that customs official," said Tom dutifully.

"Now I have everything I need to paint your portrait," said Tom easily.

"Yippee! My pantlegs no longer cling," Tom said ecstatically.

"Hmm.... I think you'd better keep an eye on that orbit," said Tom elliptically.

"Let's get married," said Tom engagingly.

"I've lost my trousers," said Tom expansively.

"Get away from the dynamite," said Tom explosively.

"I used to work as a conductor," said Tom extraneously.

"I used to command a battalion of German ants," said Tom exuberantly.

"Eins, zwei, drei, fünf ... see, I can count to five in German" said Tom fearlessly.

"I love watching the women skaters," said Tom figuratively.

"This jacket's too tight," said Tom fitfully.

"Apartment living is all right, I guess," said Tom flatly

"Yeah, for a short time I commanded a whole group of ships," said Tom fleetingly.

"Anyone can make pancakes," said Tom flippantly.

"This chimney works well," said Tom fluently.

"Only my first three answers were wrong," said Tom forthrightly.

"Here, have yet another hot dog," said Tom frankly.

"That insect is female," said Tom gallantly.

"Anyone know who commanded the Confederate army?" Tom asked generally.

"Eating uranium makes me feel like I'm brilliant," said Tom glowingly.

"I just won 1,000 dollars," said Tom grandly.

"Thanks for shredding the cheese," said Tom gratefully.

"I'll try to dig it up for you," said Tom gravely.

"I collect fairy tales," said Tom grimly.

"So far I've killed 144 cockroaches in my house," said Tom grossly.

"She tore my Valentine in two, said Tom halfheartedly.

"Hallelujah!" sang Tom handily.

"Quick, eat some pudding!" said Tom hastily.

"It's the maid's night off," said Tom helplessly.

"We've won the Kentucky Derby," screamed Tom hoarsely.

"Sorry, troops, but there's no Christmas show this year," said Tom hopelessly.

"Come convalesce at my place," said Tom hospitably.

"I'm as strong as a sled dog," said Tom huskily.

"Pass me the deck of cards," said Tom ideally.

"That bird is a protected species, and I've made it sick," said Tom illegally.

"No doctor has treated me yet," said Tom impatiently.

"This chicken has no beak," said Tom impeccably.

"My blood pressure doesn't register," said Tom impulsively.

"You don't want to catch my bad cold, do you?" asked Tom infectiously.

"I've locked onto the target," said Tom insightfully.

"As soon as the rain stops, we'll break camp," said Tom intently.

"Forgive me, but I'm a little rusty," said Tom ironically.

"My pants are no longer wrinkled," said Tom ironically.

"Make way for me, His Majesty Joseph," said Tom jokingly.

"I find these blintzes very good indeed!" said Tom judiciously.


For the next several weekends I plan to do "bonus posts" of Tom Swifties. This is part of my effort to republish my personal favorites of my old ivman archives on the blog instead. When the ivman.com domain had to be rebuilt, I decided to simplify my life by not putting out any of the archives, neither the archived iv's nor the funny pictures. If there's something you really enjoyed that you would like to see republished on my blog soon, let me know through the contact link.

If you'd like to learn more about the books and the various Tom Swift series since the original series, here are several links:



Do you have a favorite among the Tom Swifties in today's blog post? Or better yet, maybe you can think of some of your own with adverbs starting with the letters a — j and post them in the comments.


"The first duty of every soul is not to find its freedom but its master." British Congregationalist P.T. Forsyth

=^..^= =^..^=

....sdrawkcab lla smees tsuj gnihtyreve semitemoS

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9 Comments on “Tom Swifties, part 1”

  1. #1 Peter Vedder
    on May 16th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Following on with the one, “Oh, no! I’ve dropped my toothpaste,” said Tom crestfallenly.

    “I can’t even find my toothpaste,” said Tom aimlessly

    “I squeezed my toothpaste too hard,” said Tom with a gleam in his eye.

  2. #2 Rob
    on May 16th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    @Peter – Good ones! Thanks for adding them. Actually your second on is called a “Croaker.” It’s like a Tom Swifty, except that the pun is made with the verb. Then there are even “Double Croakers” where the the pun is made with several parts of speech. Tune in on future weekends…. 😀

  3. #3 Carrie
    on May 16th, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for the groans. . .

    Carrie’s last blog post..No-So Carbon Neutral Expedition

  4. #4 Rob
    on May 17th, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    @Carrie – I think I heard those groans all the way from Alaska. Was that you? asked Rob remotely. 🙂

  5. #5 Terry E.
    on May 18th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    LOL. I have read every one of the originals as a kid. My dad passed them down to me. My son has them now.

  6. #6 Tony
    on May 18th, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Rob said:
    “Eins, zwei, drei, fünf … see, I can count to five in German” said Tom fearlessly.

    “Eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs, sieben, neun, zehn … siehst Du, ich kann bis zu zehn zahlen,” sagte Tom, ohne Acht zu geben.

  7. #7 Rob
    on May 18th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    @Terry – That is so cool! What heirlooms!

    @Tony – Das ist wunderbar! For the sake of readers who don’t read German, Tony did a great pun in German. In German the words acht and Acht are pronounced exactly alike (homonyms). The word with the lowercase a means eight and the uppercase means attention. The punny part would be translated “said Tom without giving attention. I’ll give no further explanation. Those who are interested should be able to figure out the pun with what I’ve given. Anyway, thanks, Tony! 😀

  8. #8 Ann
    on May 21st, 2009 at 12:06 pm


    I don’t think that the second pun of Peter’s is a croaker. The pun is made with the noun toothpaste as Aim is a brand of toothpaste.

    For anyone who loves the Tom Swift books or similar ones, you can find the e-texts at http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page The site contains approximately 10,000 e-texts which are free. I’ve downloaded several hundred books from series like Tom Swift, Camp Fire Girls, High School Boys, etc.

  9. #9 Rob
    on May 21st, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    @Ann – The first of Peter’s puns with the brand name Aim was a Tom Swifty, since aimlessly is an adverb. You’re probably right that the second pun wasn’t a true Croaker since the end would have had to read, “Tom gleamed.” But it’s also not a true Tom Swifty since the brand name Gleam was used as the object of a preposition in the pun and not as the non-existent adverb gleamly. I’m really not sure how it should be classed, other than as a good pun. 😉

    Thanks for the link to the downloadable books! I’m sure some readers will enjoy doing that.