Saturday, 28 December 2013

Punintended Consequences

Last night I came across a peculiar type of word play called Tom Swifties. The pun takes its name from the abundantly adverbial series of Tom Swift books, which featured a child prodigy and his inventions (a legion of ghostwriters expanded the series to over 100 books since its inception in 1910, with the most recent being released in 2007). The multitude of authors often went to great lengths to avoid repeating the word ‘said’, embellishing stories with enough adverbs and synonyms to keep a nascent thesaurus industry afloat. Instead of being ‘said’, things were ‘explained’, ‘stammered’, ‘cried’, or ‘demanded'; said 'hotly', 'crossly', 'happily', or '<insert adverb here>-ly'. 

In the 1950-60’s a type of pun developed, where the adverb was linked to the dialogue. 

"I used to be a pilot," Tom explained. (ex-planed)
"Why is it so dark in here?" Tom said delightedly. (de-lighted) 
“It keeps my hair in place,” said Alice with abandon. (with a band on)
“I like a subtle play on words,” said Tom pungently. (pun-gently) 

The best tend to involve multiword puns and names.

“Who invented radium?” asked Marie curiously.
"The Red Sox didn't need the Babe", said Tom, ruthlessly.
“I’ll just have to kill the king,” Reggie sighed.
“I’m not going to drown in Egypt,” Tom said, deep in denial. 
“You should have brought a parachute,” Tom airily explained. 
"Ready or not, here I come!" Tom ejaculated prematurely. 
"I wish I had some flowers," said Tom lackadaisically. 
“Alright, I’ll give you back the pick-up I borrowed,” said Tom truculently.

Lists can be found on the Wall Street Journal and TV Tropes

Tom Swift is also the origin of the name ‘TASER’ (Tom A. Swift’s Electric Rifle), which was named for ‘Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle’ (1911). 

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