Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Starting in 1910, American boys grew up devouring the adventures of Tom Swift, created by Edward J. Stratemeyer. More than 100 books in the series have been published, the latest in 2007.

Based on real-life inventors Glenn Curtis, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, Tom was a sterling hero and natural scientific genius. Many of his inventions predated technological developments in real life — electric cars, seacopters, ray guns and houses on wheels. In fact, some say that the Tom Swift tales laid the groundwork for American science fiction.

In Stratemeyer’s stories, Tom and his friends and enemies didn’t always just say something. Occasionally they said something excitedly, sadly, hurriedly or grimly, as this excerpt (emphasis mine) from the 1910 novel “Tom Swift and His Airship” illustrates:

“Oh, I’m not a professor,” he said quickly. “I’m a professional balloonist, parachute jumper. Give exhibitions at county fairs. Leap for life, and all that sort of thing. I guess you mean my friend. He’s smart enough for a professor. Invented a lot of things. How much is the damage?”

“No professor?” cried Miss Perkman indignantly. “Why I understood from Miss Nestor that she called someone professor.”

That was enough to inspire the adverbial game called Tom Swifties. The object is to match the adverb with the quotation to produce, in each case, a high-flying pun.

Here are my 25 favorite Tom Swifties (says Lederer puntificatingly). After you’ve laughed your brains out, please consider entering the contest described at the end.

• “I love pancakes,” said Tom flippantly.

• “My pants are wrinkled,” said Tom ironically.

• “I dropped my toothpaste,” said Tom crestfallen.

• “I lost my flower,” said Tom lackadaisically.

• “My favorite statue is the Venus de Milo,” said Tom disarmingly.

• “I love reading Moby-Dick,” said Tom superficially.

• “My glasses are all fogged up,” said Tom optimistically.

• “I’ll take the prisoner downstairs,” said Tom condescendingly.

• “I’m sorry that my jet propulsion system didn’t get the rocket to the moon,” said Tom apologetically.

• “My stereo is finally fixed,” said Tom ecstatically.

• “My family has a great future,” said Tom clandestinely.

• “I passed my electrocardiogram,” said Tom wholeheartedly.

• “What I do best on camping trips is sleep,” said Tom intently.

• “I’m back from my frontal lobotomy,” said Tom absent-mindedly.

• “I manufacture table tops,” said Tom counterproductively.

• “I’m wearing my wedding ring,” said Tom with abandon.

• “I ain’t talking to my mother’s mother no more,” said Tom ungrammatically.

• “I’m trying to get some air to circulate under the roof,” said Tom fanatically.

• “Your Honor, you must be crazy,” said Tom judgmentally.

• “That’s a really ugly river beast,” said Tom hypocritically.

• “I’ve just removed the defense mechanisms from this skunk,” said Tom distinctly.

• “I’m going to kill Dracula,” said Tom painstakingly.

• “This just doesn’t add up,” said Tom nonplussed.

• “Be sure to feed kitty her cod liver oil,” said Tom catatonically.

• “Please serve me a bowl of that Chinese soup,” said Tom wantonly.

Now it’s your turn. Please wing me your best original Tom Swifties via the email address below. Please include your address, specifying the community in which you live. Please limit your submissions to three. The deadline is Feb. 21. I’ll publish the best, with the names of the winners, in my Feb. 28 column and award three signed copies of my new book, “Monsters Unchained!”

Please send your questions and comments and Tom Swifties to richardhlederer@gmail.com