Games: Season for Swifties

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When Jules Verne was out of fashion and Superman still a far-distant threat, it was Tom Swift who set children's hearts a fire. Tom circled the globe, discovered a hidden Andean city and recovered a lost submarine, but what lingered in his readers' tiny minds even longer than his exploits was the precision with which Author Victor Appleton recorded his exact tone of voice and every mood. Tom Swift never simply "said" anything; he said it "soberly," "thoughtfully," "excitedly" (one classic rejoinder: "'Yes, it is an emergency all right,' returned Tom slowly"). Today, though original Tom Swift fans are becoming eligible for social security benefits, a new generation who may think him the author of Gulliver's Travels are playing a word game based on his idiom. Its name: "Tom Swifties."

There are no set rules to the game or any limit to how many can play. Its object: to create an adverbial link between what is said and how it is said. Purists insist that Swifties end with "Tom said"; deviationists permit "he" or "she" instead of "Tom," but the format is the same, with puns at a premium. Sample Swifties:

> "I lost my crutches," said Tom lamely. >-"I'm glad I passed my electrocardiogram," said Tom wholeheartedly.

> "I'll take the prisoner downstairs.," said Tom condescendingly.

— "You have the charm of Venus," Tom murmured disarmingly.

> "I just lost a game of Russian roulette," said Tom absentmindedly.

^ "I might as well be dead," he croaked. ^ "You make me feel like a king," he said with a leer.

> "Let me have some berries," he rasped. "I'll just slip into something more comfortable," she said negligently.

In Washington, D.C., where they have replaced Caroline jokes in popularity, Swifties have something of a local ring. Favorites include: "My feet hurt," Bobby said flatly; "Tough," Ethel replied callously. Or, "We dig you," said Nikita gravely. And, "This Administration has plans for the South," said J.F.K. darkly.

Minneapolis claims geographic credit for the game, having spawned its first known player, Adman Earl Pease, who began spouting Swifties one slow evening ten years ago. His son Paul, an advertising executive, took the game along when he moved to San Francisco. There, it rapidly became so popular that two months ago Paul Pease and a couple of collaborators put together a book titled Tom Swifties, which sold out its initial printing of 5,000 copies locally. Last week they issued a second printing of 100,000 copies to be distributed around the country. Price: $1. "Quite a profitable fad," said Tom, at a loss.