A teetotum is a form of
Pieter Brueghel's "Children's Games" (1560)
gambling top. It has a polygonal body marked with letters or numbers, which indicate the result of each spin. In its earliest form the body was square (in some cases via a stick through a regular six-sided die [ [http://wordsmith.org/words/teetotum.html Teetotum at A.Word.A.Day] ] ), marked on the four sides by the letters A (Lat. "aufer", take) indicating that the player takes one from the pool, D (Lat. "depone", put down) when a fine has to be paid, N (Lat. "nihil", nothing), and T (Lat. "totum", all), when the whole pool is to be taken.
Joseph Strutt, who was born in
1749, mentions the teetotum as used in games when he was a boy [ [http://ccl.princeton.edu/index.php?app=download&id=98 Make it a Pleasure and Not a Task] ] .
Other accounts give such letters as P, N, D ("dimidium", half), and H or T or other combinations of letters.
Other combinations of letters that could be found were:
NG, SZ, TA, TG, NH, ND, M.
Which stood for (In Latin):
ZS - "Zona Salve", save all
TA - "Tibi Adfer", take all
NH - "Nihil Habeas", nothing left
LS - "L" (i.e., 50) "Solve", save 50
ND - "Nihil Dabis", nothing happens
Teetodum survives today as
dreidel, a Jewish game played on Hanukkah.
* Teetotum is mentioned in
Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, chapter 5: "'Are you a child or a teetotum?' the Sheep said, as she took up another pair of needles."
Put and Take
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