All croaked up Last week we took a look at ‘Tom Swifties’, which are sentences in which the adverb echoes the subjectmatter of the quotation with a single or double pun twisted in, such as, “These propulsion systems were used by Nasa on moon rockets”, said Tom apologetically.
It was only a matter of time before a jaded wordsmith (there are many of those) transferred the echo from the adverb to the verb: “I’m dying”, he croaked.
And so the Croaker was born. Here is a selection: “That’s a dogwood”, he barked. “Nuts!” she cracked. “It’s the gas!” he fumed. “I love spearmint gum”, she bubbled. “That’s Moby Dick”, she blubbered. “Turn on the fountain”, he spouted. “You know how I loathe fish”, he carped.
“The kitten got into the knitting”, she snarled.
You get the idea. But all the above examples rely only on two different meanings of the word represented by the verb. What if the spelling as well as the meaning is changed?
Behold! A homonymic Croaker then appears. Some of these may take a moment for the penny to drop, but I urge you to try: “Company’s coming”, she guessed. “It’s going to be a lovely ceremony”, she writes.
At the risk of lowering the tone, let me point out that ‘guessed’ is read as ‘guest’ and ‘writes’ as ‘rites’.
Then there are Croakers in which only part of the verb refers back to the earlier sentence. Try to eliminate the first syllable in the last verb in these:
“I’ve never seen such gorgeous conifers”, she opined. “Think mink”, he inferred. “One million dollars won’t be nearly enough”, he agreed. “Ring the bell”, she appealed. “Come to class and I’ll raise your grade”, the professor remarked.
And if those weren’t clever – or groan-worthy – enough, try these little masterpieces, in which the verb is a synonym for a two-word phrase:
“Your last paper was superior to this”, the teacher berated.
“I see that’s the letter after M”, she envisioned.
“Ask me to the school dance, Theodore”, she prompted.
“That poem was written in prison”, he conversed.
Still more variations coming up in next week’s column!