CSotD: Sunday Variety Pak

Reality Check (AMS) serves a heapin’ helpin’ of “Tom Swifties,” based on cartoon characters, Tom Swifties being a fad of the early 60s.

This Wikipedia article explains the phenomenon, which drew from a foible of the syndicated authors of the Tom Swift adventure series, who avoided the simple “said,” and gives examples both of the labored prose of the original and the punning Tom Swifties based on it, of which this is only a sample:

When I was coaching and editing young writers, use of “said” was one of the elements of writing in which I had to deprogram them from what their teachers taught them.

There’s nothing wrong with “said,” I’d tell them, and it’s largely invisible, whereas those more interesting words catch the eye and have specific meanings that must be justified.

It’s part of a more sweeping fallacy in which kids are told they should avoid clichés, which is true — I forbade them to be kept on the edge of their seats by a movie — but familiar words are not clichés. Teaching that results in them searching out odd words that often don’t quite mean what was intended anyway.

I’d rather they patterned their prose on Ernest Hemingway than on the pseudonymous hacks who extruded novels for the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

And, yes, it’s good for kids to read, even the turgid prose of a Stratemeyer, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for them to write that way.


Which brings us to this Andertoons (AMS), because we used to have “book fairs” in school, in which our elementary library would become a book store for a day and we’d be trotted through. By time time my kids came along, however, they had mostly become “book orders” in which the kids were handed brochures.

I hated the book orders, and not just because they seemed to be half books and half toys, but because a book is best judged by holding it in your hands, a luxury I appreciate even more having lived where there are no bookstores, which made the book fairs of my youth that much more valuable.

But when my kids were little, we lived in a place with one of the best bookstores in the country, and I’d swap them their book order for any book they wanted plus a chance to play in the monkeyhouse there while I did some browsing of my own.

That place, alas, was killed by a combination of big boxes and Amazon, but it also occurs to me that there are a lot of kids whose parents can’t afford to let them order from the brochure the teacher handed out.

Fortunately, I’m not the only person who gives a damn about things like that. It may be a matter of bailing water with a teaspoon, but we’ll end today with one helluva praiseworthy teaspoon. Don’t miss it.


Meanwhile, Red and Rover (AMS) celebrates something some grownups wish kids wouldn’t do, but I don’t know what they think will happen to those seeds if they aren’t blown by little kids.

Do you expect them to just fall *klunk* to the ground?

Dandelion seeds are magic.


And, the county fair having closed down, Mt. Pleasant (Tribune) makes yet another pitch for country living, and I’m with the guys who find the night sky, far from city lights, thrills enough. I was truly sad when I learned that most people have never been able to see the Milky Way; it was my light when I walked home at night in the dark.

The Presbyterian minister in my hometown moved his family to Plattsburgh, NY, a city of fewer than 20,000, but a city nonetheless, and he told me his boys were having trouble adjusting because there was “nothing to do.”

They were used to going out into the woods or jumping rock-to-rock in the river and so forth. Hanging out at the mall wasn’t nearly as much fun.


To continue this discussion of country matters, I don’t understand today’s Barn (Creators), because I came across it shortly after reading this sign that popped up on Facebook:

The goat shouldn’t have felt the coffee at all, given that his normal body temperature is just above the boiling point.

The farm is in England and is one of those places city folks come to learn about country living.

And to watch the goats spontaneously burst into flames.


The Other Coast (Creators) also brought up the things we know about animals that just ain’t so, and I don’t think dogs need anyone to be a hypochondriac to be over-fussed with, at least where food is involved.

Either we’re breeding some very delicate dogs — including rescues, don’t blame it on the purebreds — or we’ve got a lot of owners who fret way too much over what they feed their pups.

I don’t remember just when I switched from “regular old dog food” to a premium brand, but the benefit was less filler and thus smaller, firmer poop.

It wasn’t until a few years later that we started getting into battles over what dogs really want.

Which is to root through the garbage, but nobody is selling that as dog food. Yet.

It’s not entirely recent. I remember “Lassie Dog Food,” which was basically Dinty Moore stew with a dog biscuit in every can.

Oh, wait — here’s a 1971 clipping confirming that recipe right down to the ethnicity:

Today, if you want your dog to be a vegetarian or a piscaterian or vegan, there’s an overpriced bag of food out there just waiting for you. And for your dog, though he probably won’t give a damn.

BTW, if you want your BS detector to go off, Google for the best dog foods and read the comments. I suspect dog food companies pay people to post slanderous comments about their competitors on those sites.


Finally, let’s return to literary matters, where Tom Gauld illustrates the difference between your own critics and people who might actually be able to turn your brilliance into a book.

Which also brings us to our promised moment of “Awww.”


(Through the pandemic, he also read to kids and visited with them on-line.)

8 thoughts on “CSotD: Sunday Variety Pak

  1. Apparently goats live in a farenheit world while humans live in a centigrade world?

  2. For what it’s worth, book fairs are still a thing. It feels like the entire school is in our small library all at the same time, and it makes me happy to see kids excited about the prospect of a new book. And I completely agree with your sentiment about being able to handle the books – I have a hard time buying books for my daughter when she’s not with me, because part of the pleasure of books is perusing the pages.

  3. I was always excited by the book orders. We’d get a folding brochure (which I always elaborately defaced) full of interesting titles, and I’d mark way too many, and eventually narrow it down to a half dozen or so titles at 25 or 35 cents apiece, and they’d eventually arrive, and I’d still be interested in at least 75% of them.

    Some of them I still have. “Mad Scientists Club” for the win!

  4. I assume that fear of the mental capabilities of the readers lead to the flurry of hyphenated adjectives in that cartoon (which was good, by the way). In the immortal words of Chris Adams (paraphrased), “in my opinion, you might have trusted us.” A real Tom Swifty’s enjoyment comes partly from the mental distortion required to understand why it it supposed to be funny…

Comments are closed.