Tom Swiftly and the Case of the Million Dollar Collar (a short story: part one)

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Thanks to Daisy Mariposa

I recently read a wonderful hub called "My Favorite Tom Swifties" by Daisy Mariposa. I had never heard the term "Tom Swifty" before but found it very interesting. Thank you Daisy for introducing me to this special type of humorous pun in which an adverb or adverbial phrase refers to how someone said something.

Classics of early science fiction, the first Tom Swift book, "Tom Swift and his Motor Cycle" was published in 1910. This cover is from the 3rd book, published later that same year.
Classics of early science fiction, the first Tom Swift book, "Tom Swift and his Motor Cycle" was published in 1910. This cover is from the 3rd book, published later that same year. | Source

Brief History of Tom Swifties

In the original series of stories created by the prolific American writer Edward L. Stratemeyer under the pseudonym Victor Appleton II, a young scientist hero named Tom Swift was drawn into adventures involving rockets, giant cannons, photo-telephones, electric rifles and various other things he had invented.

The first book Tom Swift and His Airship was first published in 1910.

Not many dictionaries define "Tom Swifty". One that does is The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, 1st edition (1966):

Tom Swiftie, a play on words that follows an unvarying pattern and relies for its humor on a punning relationship between the way an adverb describes a speaker and at the same time refers significantly to the import of the speaker's statement, as in "I know who turned off the lights," Tom hinted darkly (http://www.ccp14.ac.uk/)

Since many adverbs end in "ly" this kind of pun was originally called a Tom Swiftly, one clear example being "We must hurry," said Tom Swiftly. Another humorous example is: "They had to amputate them both at the ankles," said Tom defeatedly."

Traditionally Tom is the speaker, but this isn't really 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: e.g."Who discovered radium?" asked Marie curiously.

It appears that the name of these puns was changed for the 1963 publication of the book "Tom Swifties" by Paul Pease and Bill McDonough which introduced the term to the United States and they have been known as that ever since.

My Attempt to Write a Story Using Tom Swifties

This is my attempt at writing a story using "Tom Swifties." I have very loosely based it on the series of books by Victor Appleton II but I have called my character Tom Swiftly to differentiate from the original Tom Swift character. This is somewhat experimental in the practice of writing the puns successfully so hopefully they don't appear too corny. Hopefully you enjoy this first installment. I welcome constructive feedback.

*See Links at the Bottom of This Hub for a New Hub Challenge

Public domain: original artwork by James Gary 1939. (no evidence that the copyright on this publication was renewed)
Public domain: original artwork by James Gary 1939. (no evidence that the copyright on this publication was renewed) | Source
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Tom Swiftly and the Case of the Million Dollar Collar

by John Hansen © 2014


Tom turned off the lights and locked the laboratory door behind him. Unfortunately this would be his last visit to the University Science Centre, at least for the foreseeable future.

The Government had cut funding and, ultimately University staffing levels had suffered. Tom's dual positions as Assistant Biochemist and Lecturer in Robotics were among the casualties.

Investigative research had always interested him and Tom had occasionally dabbled in a little unofficial detective and forensic work on the side. Why, well because although lecturing and lab work was fruitful it was also often quite dull. Sometimes he needed a kick, or an adrenalin shot. Now, the opportunity to pursue that field had been presented to him unexpectedly.

At 35 years of age and single Tom figured he wasn't too old to try a change of careers, at least until science research funding started to pick up again. He had already decided to start up his own Private Detective Agency, and although he wasn't sure how, he imagined having degrees in robotics and biochemistry must give him some advantage over other private investigators.

Tom walked downtown to where he had rented an office for his new venture. He had a licence but rarely drove, couldn't understand how people could put themselves through the stresses caused by city traffic.

The outer building was a little shabby and run-down, probably quite opulent in it's heyday but that was well passed. Anyway, it was centrally situated and in quite a lively part of town. Some may call it seedy, but Tom figured it was the perfect place for a private detective to set up shop.

The building had an elevator of sorts but an "OUT OF ORDER" sign was propped up in front of the doors so Tom walked up the two flights of stairs leading to the first floor. He stopped outside a room marked 5B and stared at the sign above the door, "SWIFTLY SOLVED INVESTIGATIONS". He thought the name quite clever, and smiled proudly, before opening the door to his new office.

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Tom Swiftly settled in and took no time hiring a receptionist come investigative assistant named Rita Smart. He had interviewed a handful of hopefuls, but Rita had been the standout applicant. She was 27, divorced, with no kids, which meant she was free to devote most of her time to work, and she was enthusiastic. Previous experience in administration within the Police Department was invaluable and the fact she was easy on the eye, though not a determining factor, wasn't detrimental.

In just the first day on the job Rita had set up an office filing system, arranged the previously drab room so that it looked quite professional, had printed up an impressive batch of business cards, and was busy networking online for business. Tom very much doubted his ability to have done all that on his own. He even toyed with the idea that if he ever made Rita a full partner in the Agency that he could change the catch phrase to something like: "Cases Solved, Smart and Swiftly."

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Business had been quiet for the first week, in fact non-existent, and Tom was wondering if he'd made the right move or if perhaps he should have set up business in a different location. He was about to discuss some marketing options with Rita when there was a knock on the door. "Can you open that please?" Tom said, entranced to find out who the first client was.

Rita opened the door to a tall grey haired man about 60, who entered tentatively. Rita greeted the Agency's first prospective customer with a genuine smile, "Good morning Sir. Welcome to Swiftly Solved Investigations. How can we help you?"

The man's eyes darted about nervously, "I .. um ..need a private investigator, and the matter is urgent." Tom stood up quickly and interrupted.

"Tom Swiftly, at your service," he offered the newcomer his hand, "What exactly would you like us to investigate, Mr ....?"

The man shook Tom's hand reluctantly. "It's Kendrick-Ward, Alistaire Kendrick-Ward, and I'd like you to find my wife's missing dog."

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"Missing dog!" Tom muttered, surprised and glancing around at Rita. "I'm sorry Sir, this is a private detective agency not the RSPCA. Have you contacted them or the pound?" his voice strayed a little sarcastically.

"It's not just any missing dog," dismissed Kendrick-Ward. "It is a pedigree prize-winning toy poodle named 'Franelle Gingerbelle'. We call her 'Ginger,'.. besides ...," he said red faced, and stopping mid-sentence.

Rita saw the frustrated look on Tom's face and decided to intervene. "Mr Kendrick-Ward, I am sure Ginger is a lovely dog and very important to you and your wife, however our business is searching for missing people, not animals," she battered her big brown puppy dog eyes at him.

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The tall older man withdrew his wallet and placed ten $100 notes on the counter. "Maybe this will convince you. Is $1000 enough for a retainer?" he offered.

Rita and Tom stared at the money in shock. Well this was their first possible client in a week of opening so it was hard to turn him away. "Person..dog, dog .. person, what's it really matter I suppose," Tom's voice wavered briefly, "After all there is always room for one more case."

Kendrick-Ward was confident the money would win them over, "Besides, it's not just the dog!" he barked. "Ginger is wearing a diamond studded collar worth $1.2 million," his voice attaining a rich confident tone.

"Yes, the retainer is fine," Tom said brightly as he handed the money to Rita to put in the safe. "We'll do the investigation. However, I can't guarantee we'll find both the poodle and the collar intact."

Kendrick-Ward frowned, "W..what do you mean .. not find them.. intact?" he stuttered.

"Well, it's quite likely that 'Franelle Gingerbelle' was nabbed for the collar, and not for her doggy charm," replied Tom as pleasantly as possible.. "Whoever dog-napped her probably removed the collar and dumped the pooch."

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"They are both microchipped. The dog has one on its ear, and on the collar in among the diamonds.That should make them easier to find, right?" asked Kendrick-Ward. Before Tom could answer, he added, "Don't tell my wife I said this, but the dog's not important. She's a cranky, whining, spoilt thing anyway, but for God's sake get the collar back," he begged.

"We'll keep you updated," Rita said holding her palm up, "Do you have a business card or something?"

"Here are my contact details," he addressed Tom but handed a business card to Rita, "Kendrick-Ward Associates..blaa, blaa, blaa.. phone number, fax, email.

"Very well Sir, we'll get right on it. The name doesn't lie," Tom Swiftly said, pointing to the sign on the door.


(to be continued)

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Have you heard ever read or heard of...?

  • Tom Swift Aventures
  • Tom Swifties
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Comments 48 comments

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 22 months ago from Central Florida

John, I've never heard of this style of writing, either. At least I never equated writing in puns to a given style. It kind of takes on a corny flavor when brought to the reader's attention. I think the gumshoe detective is the perfect venue for a Tom Swiftie story.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

You are, without a doubt, one of the best writers on HP. No matter what the challenge is, you meet it head on and do a great job with it. This was a pure pleasure to read.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 22 months ago from Southern Illinois

Hubpages should have a clever button to click. This type of writing is totally different and I like the intro. ' entirely ' Next installment please..


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 22 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Great job, I was off and in another place. If not for the intro I would have thought it all up and uply. I just love-ly endings. Hurry up with more of this, I will be waiting.


RachaelOhalloran profile image

RachaelOhalloran 22 months ago from United States

Jodah, This is an excellent Chapter One (first installment) and I look forward to reading more.

Hurry it up and publish more! lol Thanks for introducing this style of writing. I have never heard of it before. I agree with billybuc, you are a phenomenal writer and no task is too hard for you. Voted up and awesome!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Shauna I am glad I was not the only one who hadn't heard of Tom Swifties. I felt the gumshoe detective angle may be easier to incorporate the corny puns. Thanks for reading.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Wow Bill, that compliment means a huge amount coming from such an accomplished writer as yourself. Much appreciated and glad you enjoyed this tale.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Ruby, you are too kind. I found this quite a unique challenge that I set myself, now just have to come up with a plausible part two.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Eric, glad you could lose yourself in the story and like the -ly endings. I'll try not to take too long with part two.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for the kind words Rachael. Glad I introduced you to something new as well. I considered not publishing this until I had Chapter Two planned out, but couldn't wait. I'll start working on the second as soon as I can. Have a great day.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

Ooh just getting into that! lol! took me a while to 'get it' then I got it! lol! yes very clever! I had never heard the term before, but now I really like the way you wrote it, and the history of it was interesting too!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for reading Nell. Glad you eventually "got it"


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 22 months ago from New Delhi, India

Excellent hub and very well done!

I have read Daisy's hub and have an idea of the phrase, 'Tom Swifty.'

You did a wonderful job by writing on a unique topic. This does need expertise, which you have in plenty.

Voted up and thanks for sharing!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you Chitrangada. I really enjoy writing different types of hubs and trying new things. I had never heard of Tom Swift before or Tom Swifties so this was quite a challenge. I am glad you think I succeeded. Thanks for the vote up too.


DDE profile image

DDE 22 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

My first reading about Tom Swiftly and you always have something new to tell your readers. A well-approached topic. Informative and very interesting. Voted up, and useful.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 22 months ago from Wales

A wonderful read John; very clever and now I patiently await more. Take care and enjoy your day.

Eddy.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you as always Devika. Your comments inspire me.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Glad you enjoyed the read Eddy, hopefully part two is not far away.


ocfireflies profile image

ocfireflies 22 months ago from North Carolina

If this is your first drive, then I do not think you need a license. Smiles.

Loved this. Can't wait for Part II. What a fun read. Wish I could be Rita Smart. Smiles. V/H/P

: ) Kim


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 22 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

John, "you've scored a smashing googly," said Tom boldly. "There's no words," said Jo, dumbfoundedly. I've learned something new, loved it. :)


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hey Kim, so glad you enjoyed this. You can be my Rita Smart any day. Thanks for reading and the vote up.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Haha Jo, I need to hire you to write Tom Swifties for my story.. Love those. Anyone from a Nina- cricketing nation will have no idea what "a smashing Google" is, but it's brilliant...and I love, "there's no words," said Jo, dumbfoundedly"...glad I introduced you to something new too.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 22 months ago

Your writing style flows so well and I found myself engaged with interest to your story. You have great talent, my friend!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Aw Dianna, thank you for that generous comment. Glad you find my writing style easy to read and the story interesting.


travmaj profile image

travmaj 22 months ago from australia

Tom Swiftly - what a smooth character. I hadn't heard the term before either. What fun and what an excellent portrayal of this genre - look forward to more exploits and the solving of the mystery.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you travmaj. It seems I wasn't alone in not being aware of "Tom Swifties". Glad you enjoyed this and hope to have part two in the works soon.


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 22 months ago from Victoria, Australia

I hadn't heard of Tom Swifties either, but I love your take on it. I was really disappointed when the story ended so abruptly and will be looking forward to part Two.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Glad you were enjoying the story Blossom. Sorry I ended it prematurely....I'll try to get the next chapter finished soon.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 22 months ago from Nashville Tn.

I enjoyed this so much Jodah. I'm looking forward to part two. Sharing, of course.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for reading Audrey. Glad you enjoyed this.


Harishprasad profile image

Harishprasad 22 months ago from India

What a great artist you are, John. About Tom Swiftly , I haven't read ever-ly. This is such a lovely and deliciously rich flavor of writing, very unique to me. Thank you. Waiting for to savor the final touches of this bright-ly thing. Voted up and shared.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your kind comment Harish, glad I introduced you to a new form of writing.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 22 months ago from Riga, Latvia

A very interesting read. Had never heard of this style. Thanks for sharing.


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 22 months ago

Jodah, you can write just about anything. I am caught in your web of mystery. Can't wait for the next expisode.

I am having problems with my computer so. . . . have to hurry and get the in, voted up, USBI and shared.

Love it.

Shyron


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for reading Gypsy, gLad you found this style interesting.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Shyron, glad you enjoyed this. Hope your computer comes good and I'll try to get the next chapter up soon.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 22 months ago from The Caribbean

Jodah, you have to be a real top-class writer to attempt so many new challenges. This Tom Swiftie is new to me, but I continue to learn from you. Thanks also to Daisy Mariposa.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you MsDora, I enjoyed the challenge of writing this and am currently working on the next chapter. Coming up with suitable Tom Swifty puns is the hardest part. I believe in continually challenging myself as a writer and try to improve. I always appreciate your support.


SherriDW profile image

SherriDW 22 months ago

I grew up with a father that loved puns. We would often come up with crazier and more ludicrous puns as time went on.

I really enjoyed your story and learning of this type of writing. As most commenters before me, I am looking forward to more chapters.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you for reading Sherri, I am glad you enjoyed this and it brought back memories of your father's puns. Maybe you got shoot a few this way so I could ad them to my second chapter :)


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 22 months ago from Taos, NM

Thanks for the tutorial on Tom Swifties. Your story is great and your Tom Swiftly's cleverly done and worked into the story. I enjoyed reading this and it was fun and entertaining.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thank you very much Suzette. I have been quite busy so haven't had time to complete Part 2 yet. Hopefully I won't keep everyone waiting for too long. Glad you found this an enjoyable read.


FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 21 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

Great story and fascinating insight into the Swifty phenomena, Jodah. "Hope you feel inspired to write the next instalment soon", said Tom, episodically...


Jodah profile image

Jodah 21 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks for your kind comment Colin. Yes it is now my top priority to get the next installment finished for this story. The first of my New Year's resolutions.


annart profile image

annart 18 months ago from SW England

I love this type of story and you've got me intrigued. A certain amount of humour and the style is interesting. I hadn't heard of the style either.

Do you mind me reminding you of "it's" = it is/has (contraction), she said curtly, and "its" (possessive) referring to belonging to 'it'; e.g. "its heyday" (above), she muttered to the screen. (Does that work? Not sure!). Typo no doubt.

Great read. Off to read part two.

Ann


Jodah profile image

Jodah 18 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Hi Ann, glad I could introduce you to a new style of writing and you enjoyed the story. Thanks for the editing tips too. I don't mind at all, in fact I welcome it. I'l try to fix those errors right now.


The Examiner-1 profile image

The Examiner-1 18 months ago

I liked this very much John, it is a great mystery. I was going to read one from a Hub but I read this because I had not read chapter one yet. I read Drew and Hardy but never heard of Swift/Swifty. (By the way, I found him in Wikipedia.) I voted this up, shared and pinned this.

Kevin


Jodah profile image

Jodah 18 months ago from Queensland Australia Author

Thanks Kevin. Glad you enjoyed this story. I finally got part two out of the way, now to work on part three, not sure if it will be the end either. It's a bit like your "Secret Kisser" story. Glad I coud introduce you to Tom Swift. Thanks for the vote up, share and pin to.

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