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"It's a Joke!" Tom Said Swiftly

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"It's a Joke!" Tom Said Swiftly
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.07

     challenging words:    carped, dialog, double-meaning, expressly, far-fetched, jokesters, over-dramatic, rightly, sub-types, ventricle, denial, relish, fiction, based, series, carp
     content words:    Tom Swiftie, Tom Swift, Tom Swifties

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"It's a Joke!" Tom Said Swiftly
By Toni Lee Robinson

1     Most of us laugh at the kind of joke called a pun. (Unless it's a really bad one-then we'd groan instead.) A pun is a play on words. Some examples of puns are:

        Q. What lies at the bottom of the ocean and twitches?
A. A nervous wreck

Q. Why does a chicken coop have two doors?
A. Because if it had four doors it would be a chicken sedan

Q. What do you call a cow with no legs?
A. Ground beef

2     Whether you laughed or groaned, you probably saw that each of these jokes was based on a word or phrase that had more than one meaning. It's the pun, or use of these double-meaning words, that makes the joke. In the first joke, the word "wreck" forms the pun. It has two meanings in the joke: (1) someone who's showing signs of stress and (2) a sunken ship.
3     Check out the second joke for yourself. Where is the pun? In this joke, the word "coop" means both a house for chickens and a small car. (The word for small car is spelled "coupe," but it sounds the same as the chicken house.) By this time, you can easily pick out the pun in the third joke.
4     There are countless styles of puns. One of the most fun types is what is known as a "Tom Swiftie." This kind of pun is named after a young action hero. Tom Swift sprang to life in the 1950s. He was the main character in a series of science fiction books for boys. The stories starred 18-year-old Tom and his friend Bud. Usually the two were busy fighting villains using Tom's latest brilliant invention.
5     The tales may have been far-fetched in places, but they never lacked excitement. The dialog reflects the fast-paced drama of the stories. Instead of the usual, ho-hum "Tom said" at the end of a line of dialog, the writers often used adverbs to punch up Tom's words.

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