Five years before the incorporation of Clearwater as a city, a witty fellow named Willard Espy was a master of word play. Just prior to that time, a new character named Tom Swift came along in a series of children’s books similar to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. The author of the Tom Swift books had a peculiar habit of applying profuse numbers of adverbs after quoted sentences instead of just the usual “he said.”
Espy made fun of the liberal use of adverbs in those books by coming up with clever adverbs related to the quotes. For example: “It’s a unit of electric current,” said Tom amply.
Get it? Espy termed the witty play on words Tom Swifties, and it’s stuck ever since. A variation uses names other than Tom, such as: “You need to add more spice,” said Herb.
Thousands of clever Tom Swifties can be found in print and it’s fun to make up your own. Here are some of my favorites:
“I’m wearing my wedding ring,” said Tom with abandon.
“You’d better by careful with that ax,” Tom said offhandedly.
“I really like my job as a NASA engineer,” said Tom apologetically.
“I’m not in the mood for shellfish,” said Tom crabbily.
“The prisoner is coming down the stairs,” Tom said condescendingly.
“I like modern art,” said Tom abstractly.
“2 bdrm furn w/utilities,” Tom aptly wrote.
“I insist on naming the first male insect,” said Tom adamantly.
“Here’s your allowance for the next two weeks,” Tom advanced.
“I’ll take that,” said Tom appropriately.
“I sometimes enjoy sleeping in a teepee,” Tom said attentively.
“This city will never be rebuilt,” the prophets babble on.
“My underpants are too small,” said Tom briefly.
“I keep hitting my head on things,” Tom said bashfully.
“I need a pencil sharpener,” said Tom bluntly.
“I’m going to use a different font,” Tom said boldly.
“This is mutiny,” said Tom bountifully.
“I hope no one can detect my halitosis,” Tom said breathlessly.
“The stock market is going back up,” said Tom bullishly.
“I’m not sure which ballpoint pen to use,” Tom bickered.
“We’ve taken over the government,” the general cooed.
“Have some cheese,” said Tom craftily.
“I’ve run out of laundry detergent,” Tom said cheerlessly.
“That makes birdie on this hole,” Tom chipped in.
“I’ll have another plate of steamers,” Tom clamored.
“I dropped the toothpaste,” said Tom, crestfallen.
“This has been a grave undertaking,” Tom said cryptically.
“Let’s play musical chair,” said Tom deceitfully.
“I’m going to buy more pastries,” Tom declared.
“It’s time to play my wild card,” Tom deduced.
“There’s too much vermouth in my martini,” said Tom dryly.
“Bartender, get me three German beers,” said Hans dryly.
“No pilaf for me,” Tom said derisively.
“Vote for Reagan,” said Tom electronically.
“Let’s kill him,” said the executive.
“I used to work for the railway company,” said Tom extraneously.
“When do I turn over the pancakes,” Tom said flippantly.
“You should never burn the Stars and Stripes,” said Tom flagrantly.
“I collect fairy tales,” Tom said grimly.
“I climbed Mt. Everest,” said Tom hilariously.
“Beware the 15th of March,” Tom said idly.
“This chicken has no beak,” said Tom impeccably.
“She must be wearing mink,” Tom inferred.
“May I join your group and sing?” inquired Tom.
“I like ragged margins,” said Tom without justification.
“She flies her own jet,” Tom leered.
“I’ve got a new game,” mumbled Peg.
“That dog’s a mongrel,” Tom muttered.
“I don’t see Ted,” noted Tom.
“It’s 9:59,” said Tom pretentiously.
And last but not least: “I really enjoy reading ‘The Raven’,” said Tom poetically.
Feature photo by Peter Lloyd on UnSplash