'What's a Tom Swifty?” asked Dick in a harried manner

A Tom Swifty is a pun that plays on the description of reported speech. The title of this blog post was an example—it features the names Tom (Swifty), Dick and Harry (in the word ‘harried’). Other examples include:

  • “I manufacture table tops,” said Tom counterproductively.
  • “Let’s have a debate about cows,” Tom mooted.
  • “Who discovered radium?” asked Marie curiously.
  • “This sea-spray will ruin all the metal-work,” said Tom mistrustfully.
  • “Show no mercy killing the vampire,” said Tom painstakingly.

The name “Tom Swifty” derives from the Tom Swift series of books where the house pseudonym author, “Victor Appleton“, tried to avoid using the word “said” too often so he decided to use an adverb or description clause after it. An example of this was “‘We must hurry,’ said Tom Swiftly.” and the joke took off from there.

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