10/26/18 Grif.Net – Wellerism

10/26/18 Grif.Net – Wellerism

Sam =
in Charles =
Dickens’ "Pickwick Papers" (1836-7) was prone to =
producing punning sentences such as: ‘Out with it, as the father said to =
the child when he swallowed a penny’. This type of verbal play, =
involving a metaphorical and a punningly literal sense, soon gained =
popularity under the name of ‘Wellerism’, and a craze for =
devising such expressions rapidly sprang up on both sides of the =
Atlantic. A sample familiar to children is: ‘I see, said the blind man, =
when he picked up his hammer and saw.’


A “Tom =
Swifty” is MY FAVORITE type of Wellerism. This has an adverb =
relating both properly and punningly to a sentence of reported =


"The =
doctor had to remove my left ventricle," said Tom =

"Your =
Honor, you’re crazy!" said Tom =


The quip takes =
its name from Tom Swift, a boy’s adventure hero created by the prolific =
American writer Edward L. Stratemeyer (pseudonym Victor Appleton) who =
published a series of books featuring the young Tom Swift. Tom Swift =
rarely passed a remark without a qualifying adverb as "Tom added =
eagerly" or "Tom said jokingly".


**In a true =
Tom Swifty, it is an adverb (word specifying the mode of action of the =
verb) that provides the pun:

"Elvis is =
dead," said Tom expressly.

"I cut =
myself on some glass from that broken window," Tom said =


**Frequently =
the pun occurs in the verb, and there may not be an adverb at all. =
Strictly speaking such puns are not Tom Swifties, but they are generally =
included in the term.

"My =
garden needs another layer of mulch," Tom repeated.

"You must =
be my host," Tom guessed.


**Sometimes it =
is neither a verb, nor an adverb, but a short phrase acting like an =
adverb in modifying the verb:

"I’ve =
only enough carpet for the hall and landing," said Tom with a blank =

"Don’t =
let me drown in Egypt!" pleaded Tom, deep in denial.


, Tom is the speaker, but this is by no means necessary for the pun to =
classify as a Tom Swifty. Sometimes the pun lies in the name, in which =
case it will usually not be Tom speaking:

"Who =
discovered radium?" asked Marie curiously.

"I’m =
going to end it all," Sue sighed.


**Most Tom =
Swifties are morphological; i.e. the words must be broken down into =
morphemes (smaller components) to understand the =

"This is =
the real male goose," said Tom producing the =

"The cat =
sounds as if she’s happy now she’s been fed," said Tom =


**Often the =
adverb (or whatever) has a homonym (a word which is pronounced, and =
perhaps spelled, the same, but has a different meaning) which leads to =
the punning meaning of the sentence:

"I have a =
split personality," said Tom, being frank.

"I love =
hot dogs," said Tom with relish.


**There is a =
special kind of homonym called a homophone (homonyms spelled =

"There’s =
no need for silence," Tom allowed.

"I won’t =
finish in fifth place," Tom held forth.



Dr Bob Griffin = =

"Jesus =
Knows Me, This I Love!"