My swifty story, like all permanent English settlements in the Americas, began at Jamestown, Virginia. I had just married two dear friends (to each other) on the historic island and was hanging out at the reception with the groom’s uncle’s college roommate, a dapper gent by the name of Craig Anderson.
“Seth, you’re teaching at San Diego State, right?” Craig asked, and I nodded in agreement. “Well then you have to look up my best friend from childhood; he’s there too. His name is Jim Herrick.”
“The former UCLA basketball coach?” I responded, a little confused, and totally unaware that homophones would come to play such a large role in my life.
“No, different guy but the same name. This Jim is the Director of the Alumni Association at SDSU. When we were kids he used to walk on his hands to and from school. Jim’s the best athlete I ever knew, and he is absolutely hilarious.”
Although I wasn’t sure if he meant a walking handstand or just knuckle-walking like a gorilla, I was intrigued and eager to look up this Herrick fellow. The next week, I was at a big university fundraiser, and SDSU President Steve Weber—a treasured friend and a man skilled in the lost art of the rebus—introduced us.
Jim and I gradually found that we shared a bizarre set of common interests, including nerf-based racket sports and messing with the English language. My family began to hear intriguing stories about “Crazy Jim” on a regular basis. I then made the dire mistake of giving him my cell phone number.
First thing every morning for the last five years, I have been taunted by Jim with a text message swifty without an answer. At first, I merely responded with guesses; now I counter with swifty riddles of my own.
About two years ago, I decided to turn our text-message string into a spreadsheet to see how many swifties we had compiled, and the answer was in the hundreds. Jim and I talked about finding an illustrator to bring our creations to life. Despite the fact that Spider-Man played a seminal role in my childhood and the Hulk is never far from my thoughts, I did not consider myself to be a candidate to draw our swifties. But then I sketched some funny animals on a card for my daughter Gabby’s 11th birthday (a hippo, a birdie, and two ewe... get it?).
A week later I drew my first swifty, and now I can’t seem to put down the pencil and sketchpad. There are additional partners in this strange venture. Jim's son and daughter have helped us advance technologically and continue to find new ways to connect our ideas with the world. There are also a group of about 50 friends who, starting on January 1, 2018, have been our test subjects for the initial run of cartoons. We are greatly indebted to all of these folks for their ideas, comments, and patience.
Over the past year, our word riddles have undergone many changes. The Swift family started with Tom, but soon grew to include Mot, Taylor, and Lee. In addition, the name of our venture evolved from Puntification to Punzle to Re:Punzle. Jim and I even had pseudonyms for a while. Despite all this change, the swifties themselves have remained remarkably consistent and are true to their predecessors from over 100 years ago.