Rapid Thomas

Tom Swift is the leading character in a series of junior fiction books first published in the early twentieth century. Their prose style is characterised by the way in which the author uses adverbs to add variety to quotative verbs. This feature has turned into a rich source of fun for parodists, who over the years have produced many examples in which the adverb attempt to match the speech. Here is a selection taken from ‘Language Play’ by David Crystal (recommended, and now available as an eBook).

‘Can I get you something?’ Tom asked fetchingly.

‘Try that direction,’ said Tom pointedly.

‘We’re out of whiskey,’ Tom said dispiritedly.

‘My electrocardiogram’s fine,’ Tom said wholeheartedly.

‘Wouldn’t you prefer a poodle?’ asked Tom’s father doggedly.

‘It’s the maid’s night off,’ said Tom helplessly.

‘The needle has reached zero,’ Tom said naughtily.

‘We like fairy tales,’ said Tom grimly.

‘Let’s get on with the operation,’ the surgeon cut in sharply.

‘I used to be a pilot,’ Tom explained.

‘Your visits to the psychiatrist have been helpful,’ Tom reminded him.

‘I’m quite disconcerted,’ said the conductor.

‘We’ve been discharged,’ said the electricians.

‘I’m nonplussed,’ said the mathematician.

‘We’ll arrest the president,’ the soldiers cooed.

‘You must look after your spaniel,’ Tom dogmatized.

‘I fancy a bet,’ he said winningly.

‘I’m running home to mother,’ she said fleetingly.



Filed under English Language, Language

7 responses to “Rapid Thomas

  1. My favorite: “I’ll take the prisoner downstairs,” Tom said condescendinglyl


  2. @the ridger. It’s certainly very good, and I think I may have heard it before somewhere.


  3. I think I may have doubled over in pain at this one:

    ‘We’ll arrest the president,’ the soldiers cooed.

    “Will you have that drink now?” I asked cordially.


  4. It’s certainly inventive. Yes, once you start, there’s no end to it, he continued.


  5. Ted McClure

    “Take three left turns,” Tom said forthrightly.


  6. Excellent, Ted. Your own?


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