"We raise a glass to you, Tom Swifty!" said Eric cheerfully.

by Eric Walton on October 24th, 2015

Combining the whimsy of the limerick with the subtlety of the haiku, the prodigious Tom Swifty is a form of punsmanship that has enjoyed far too little attention and much too little acclaim in recent decades. Defined (somewhat clumsily, in my opinion) by Dictionary.com as “a play on words consisting of a made-up quotation followed by a punning adverb,” the Tom Swifty was once a popular fixture on the back page of Boy's Life magazine, but is virtually unknown today to all but a handful of logophiles and punsmiths.

This is not as it should be. The Tom Swifty is not only a kind of litmus test for cleverness, but also a superb outlet for that woefully underrated virtue, and as such, deserves a much wider audience than it currently has. It is thus my intention, dear reader, to ignite your interest in and foment a recrudescence of the venerable tradition of the Tom Swifty by sharing with you a few dozen of my own original Tom Swifty compositions.

For your delight and delectation, ladies and gentlemen, I present several of my favorite Tom Swifties, listed by category, for easy reference:

Religion and Metaphysics

“Only the Almighty knows the ratio of a circle's diameter to its circumference,” said Tom piously.

“And this is your grandfather's final resting place,” said Tom gravely.

“I do not believe in your Old Testament prophets,” said Tom mosaically.

“I have been vouchsafed a vision of the future,” said Tom predictably.

“Jesus died for your sins,” said Tom crossly.

“When do you graduate from seminary?” asked Tom reverently.

“I'd like to have a word with the priest,” said Tom vicariously.

“Have you had the chance to explore the basement of the cathedral?” asked Tom cryptically.

Theatre and Entertainment

“How I do adore Voltaire,” said Tom candidly.

“How are your spirits?” asked Tom blithely.

“I suppose the acrobats were okay,” said Tom flippantly.

“I prefer last night's emcee to tonight's,” said Tom comparatively.

“Where did you study acting?” asked Tom methodically.

“Which of you is the Marquis?” asked Tom sadistically.

“I enjoyed meeting your friend Pacabel,” said Tom canonically.

“Prospero is by far my favorite Shakespearean character,” said Tom tempestuously.

“How many times must I tell you? You stress the second and fourth syllables!” said Tom emphatically.

“I'm not especially fond of that particular hip-hop artist,” said Tom icily.

“That piano is fabulous!” said Tom grandly.

“You simply must see the new production of The Importance of Being Earnest!” said Tom wildly.

Food and Dining

“This macaroni and cheese is delicious,” said Tom craftily.

“I'll have the pancakes,” said Tom flatly.

“I can't seem to escape from beneath this citrus fruit!” said Tom sublimely.

“Mr. Chang, this soup is delicious,” said Tom wantonly.

“I'm afraid this apple is not yet ripe,” said Tom bitterly.

“I'll have the tuna,” said Tom mercurially.

“My bananas, apples, and plums have all gone missing!” said Tom fruitlessly.

“Sir, would either you or your lovely wife care for some fresh Parmesan?” asked Tom ingratiatingly.

“I have prepared the olives, cherries, peaches, and avocados,” said Tom pitilessly.

“Give me three orders of deep-fried Twinkies,” said Tom unctuously.

“I simply despise McDonald's,” said Tom archly.

“Tonight's specials include raw, unseasoned potato wedges and dry white toast,” said Tom blandly.


“Can you recommend a good restaurant in Budapest?” asked Tom hungrily.

“We shall travel to the Westside of Manhattan, and there we shall board a decommissioned battleship!” said Tom intrepidly.

“When will your hotel have an available room?” asked Tom vacantly.

“Is London always this foggy?” asked Tom opaquely.

“The street names in Paris are so confusing,” said Tom ruefully.

Posted in Eric Walton    Tagged with Eric Walton, Tom Swifty, Tom Swifties, Tom Swiftie, puns, punsmanship


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