65 hilarious Tom Swiftys you need to know

Read them to see if you get the joke

By Shashi Tharoor

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Published: Thu 15 Dec 2022, 9:46 PM

Last week, we explored “Tom Swiftys”, puns where an adverb in reported speech amusingly relates to the sentiment being expressed in a line of dialogue in books for young readers. I explained how the jokes work and urged readers to try out their own. This week, to complete the story, I’m going to offer you several more in the genre, but without explanation. Read them to see if you get the joke.

First, a selection of simple Tom Swiftys: “Watch out for that broken glass!” Tom exclaimed sharply. “I need a pencil sharpener,” Tom demanded bluntly. “This pencil tip is sharp,” she observed pointedly. “Let’s go watch the cricket match,” he said gamely. “I like modern painting,” said Tom abstractly. “I don’t like going to museums,” she responded artlessly. “I never shed tears,” he observed dryly. “It’s not fair!” said Tom darkly. “The vegetables are overcooked!” she steamed. “The phone reception here is excellent,” he said clearly. “I’ve gained ten kilos,” Tom confessed heavily.

Next, some that are a little cleverer: “I really don’t like being a gardener,” Tom said witheringly. “I’m the butcher,” Tom claimed cuttingly. “That’s not how you draw a circle,” she criticised him roundly. “Don’t you dare shoot that rubberband at me!” she snapped. “Oops! There goes my hat!” said Tom off the top of his head. “This must be an aerobics class,” Tom worked out. “I only have diamonds, clubs and spades,” said Tom heartlessly. “Don’t add too much water,” said Tom with great concentration. “I’d like a number between seven and nine,” asked Tom considerately. “My favourite number is two,” Tom said evenly. “I hate mathematics,” he added.

In the same vein: “She pulled the wool over my eyes,” Tom admitted sheepishly. “I can’t think of anything to write,” Tom confessed blankly. “This is a masterpiece,” remarked Tom flawlessly. “You are going to fail my class,” warned the teacher degradingly. “The doctor amputated both my legs at the ankles,” mourned Tom defeatedly. “What happened to the carpet on the steps?” asked Tom with a blank stare.

Then, some that require a little knowledge on your part to appreciate. “I have read 93 of Wodehouse’s 95 books,” Tom recounted. “My favourite author is Hemingway,” she replied earnestly. “I have no flowers,” Tom said lackadaisically. “This tooth extraction could take forever,” commented Tom with infinite wisdom. “Don’t swing your fist near me,” said Tom, awestruck. “I work as a freelancer”, said Tom casually. “I think I’ll use a different font,” said Tom boldly. “I manufacture tabletops for shops,” she said counterproductively. “Name a unit of electric current,” said Tom amply. “I’m on welfare,” she confessed dolefully. “That doesn’t add up,” said Tom nonplussed.

Sometimes the multiple meanings of a word-sound lend themselves to several Tom Swiftys: “This boat leaks,” said Tom balefully. (Bailing water out of a boat). “I’ll get you out of prison in no time,” said Tom balefully. (Getting bail from a judge). “There’s no more room in the hay barn,” said Tom balefully. (Bales of hay). But these double-meanings are even better: “Let’s get married,” proposed Tom engagingly. “Where’s the cheese?” asked Tom gratingly. “I’ll try to dig up a couple of names,” said Tom gravely. “It’s my maid’s day off,” said Tom helplessly. “I keep banging against the furniture,” she complained bashfully. “I knew the gun wasn’t loaded,” Tom said blankly. “ There’s someone at the front door,” Tom chimed in.

Let’s end with a miscellaneous collection combining several of these types: “This lemon tastes bad,” Tom said sourly. “I don’t like Campari,” she said bitterly. “This salad dressing has too much vinegar,” said Tom acidly. “I love explosions,” Tom boomed. “Happy Birthday,” Tom said presently. “Walk this way,” Tom said stridently. “I didn’t see the steamroller coming,” said Tom flatly. “This pizza place is great!” Tom exclaimed saucily. “It’s freezing,” Tom muttered icily. “The desert is blazing!” Tom said hotly. “Follow those ships!” Tom said fleetingly. “Use your own hair brush,” she bristled. “Fire!” she yelled alarmingly.

Had enough? “What a dull subject,” the editor commented bluntly. “There’s room for one more,” Tom admitted. “My word is final!” he dictated.


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