“Tom Swifties” are named after the famous science-fiction series for young readers. The author used a LOT of adverbs to explain the actions of our improbably successful hero. Purist collectors (like me) insist that only an adverb can follow the verb.

We’ll start gently:

  • “In fact sometimes I feel like a tree myself,” said Tom woodenly.
  • “I’ve had this flu now for seven days”, said Tom weakly.
  • “You don’t have the pH high enough,” said Tom acidly.
  • “Our marriage must be dissolved”, she said acidly.
  • “I’ve eaten all the canned pineapple,” said Tom dolefully.
  • “Hamlet’s overeaten again,” Tom said disdainfully.
  • “I’ve eaten all the hay,” Tom said balefully.

Now here are some from Sandy Svatos, Oakville, Ontario:

  • “There isn’t any wind,” said Tom disgustedly.
  • “I’m going to send the code message again,” said Tom remorsefully.
  • “I’ve grown only one kind of herb in my garden,” said Tom ruefully.
  • “One of my flowers seems to be missing,” said Tom lackadaisically.

OK, brace yourself for some serious ones:

  • “I’m trying to get some air circulating under the roof,” said Tom fanatically.
  • “Bingo!” said Tom benignly.
  • “Dere goes da drone,” said Tom disbelievingly.
  • “I have no respect for the writer of this letter,” Tom said dismissively.
  • “In fact I have some theories about relatives,” said Tom generally.
  • “It’s an amphibious sheep,” Tom said wolfishly.
  • “It’s Jack the Ripper,” Tom said horrendously.
  • “Kitty loves pastrami,” said Tom delicately.
  • “Macintosh is the best computer,” said Tom applaudingly.
  • “My arm!”, said Captain Hook offhandedly.
  • “My terminal broke,” said Tom, disconsolately.
  • “Ouch! When I get stung, I want revenge!” said Tom begrudgingly.
  • “Rover is a shiftless pup,” said Tom dogmatically.
  • “That young insect is a male,” said Tom buoyantly.
  • “The lion has its head caught in the skylight,” said Tom uproariously.

You’ll have to be alert to stay with these winners from a 2009 competition in the New York Times:

  • “I manufacture table tops,” said Tom counterproductively.
  • “This sea-spray will ruin all the metal-work,” said Tom mistrustfully.
  • “Matzoh balls and gefilte fish for me”, said Tom judiciously. [DMR, Fresh Meadows, NY]
  • “We believe the young woman has been kidnapped”, said the police chief mistakenly.[Jiggy]
  • “The prisoners will be released in the order that they were apprehended,” said Tom consequentially.[Mike D]
  • “I dropped my toothpaste,” Tom said, crestfallen.[Tony]
  • I hide my whiskey upstairs, said Tom, dramatically.[Carol Roedearol Roede]
  • “Alright, I’ll give you back the pick-up I borrowed”, said Tom, truculently [Phil]
  • “I like a subtle play on words”, said Tom pungently [Phil]
  • “I’m giving up the fiddle for forty days” he said violently.[Steve]
  • “Who brought the leaky camping gear?” Tom asked intensively.[Richard Martinson]
  • “Today’s special is the tilapia,” the waiter said selfishly.[Greg]
  • “That ballpoint pen of yours ceased working, General,” said Tom ubiquitously.[Jim Blashfield]

Last Reviewed: 6 years