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nipsy n Also nip(s) Also sp nipsey, nipsi(e) [sYorkshire dial nips(e)y (not in OED or EDD, but attested at least as early as 1862); cf OED3 nip v.1 4. “Cricket. To strike (a ball) with the edge of the bat, to tip” (c1744) and nip n.3 5.a. “Cricket. . . A slight touch or stroke given to the ball by a batsman; a tip” (c1744–1755). In Yorkshire the game was associated esp with coal miners, and it seems likely that the term was introduced in this country by immigrants to the PA anthracite mining region.] chiefly NEast, esp ePA Cf cat-nipper n

= tipcat n; the short stick or cat n 3a used in this game.
1884 Pinegrove Herald (PA) 29 Feb 1/1, When the little Pinegrove boy gets mad at another while playing “nip” in the street, he leaves “no stone unturned” to satisfy his feeling of revenge. 1884 Chester Times (PA) 8 Nov [3]/2, The boys . . will stop in the midst of any game of nips, football or marbles to run and read a late telegram. 1885 Lewisburg Chronicle (PA) 26 Mar 1/3, Boys are now engaged in blowing their fingers and playing “nipsey.” 1888 Buffalo Eve. News (NY) 8 June 1/6, The boys were playing “nip” in the middle of the street and did not observe the approaching team. 1889 Harrisburg Telegraph (PA) 29 Mar 1/4, While playing “nip” with a companion in the yard at Lykens on Monday, William . . was struck in the eye with the “nip,” sustaining serious injury. 1890 Harrisburg Daily Independent (PA) [12 Feb 2]/2, After the snow goes kite-flying ordinarily comes in vogue, followed shortly after by “nipsy,” stilt walking, hop scotch and marbles. 1899 Oakdale Leader (CA) 10 Feb 1/2, Many years ago, in answer to “the ringing of the old school bell” we used to climb up the hill and precisely at 9 o’clock march in. . . Then (unless we happened to be playing nip, a rather frequent occurrence) we were his slaves until 4 o’clock. 1901 DN 2.144, Nips. . . A pussy, q.v. [DARE Ed: = cat n 3a.] Schuyler [sic for Schuylkill?] Co., Pa. [1915 Allentown Morning Call (PA) 29 May 6/5, Des gebt da boowa tzeit for fisha ga un nipsy shpiela. [=That gives the boys time to go fishing and play nipsy.]] 1917 Salina Daily Union (KS) 25 Apr 5/1, “Happy” Harris is rapidly becoming an expert at nipsy. . . On one occasion, when Walton, as pitcher, missed the ring, Harris sent the nipsy so far in three licks that he gave Walton 587 steps and won. 1919 Federal Reporter 258.110 csVT, The decedent, a boy five years of age, was playing a game with a stick sharpened at one end and called a “nipsie.” 1919 Mt. Carmel Item (PA) 25 Mar 1/3, Arthur . . was seriously injured . . while participating in a game of nipsy with an uncle. The latter was about to take a wallop at the nips when the paddle slipped from his hand and struck the boy. 1922 Pottsville Daily Republican (PA) 21 Aug 6/3, While eleven year old Fred Welch . . was playing nips with other boys he narrowly escaped being seriously hurt. 1930 Pittsburgh Post–Gaz. (PA) 28 June [6]/5, “In the course of the [golf] play, after Mr. Vilsack made a shot, I remarked, ‘You’d think you were playing ‘nip.’’ They all laughed and said they’d never heard of such a game. . . Don’t you remember when the boys played it in the streets? There was a piece of wood with sharp ends and they’d nip this with a stick and then go to the goal for a point. 1945 Western Folkl. 4.84 wMA (as of c1910), This description suggests in a general way the game which I knew by the name of nipsy. Two players usually took part. . . A short stick . . was sharpened at both ends. . . We drew a circle about two feet in diameter and a line about ten feet away. After it was decided who was to bat first, . . the loser stood behind the line and tossed the short stick (the cat or nipsy) at the circle. If he were skillful and placed his toss within the circle, his opponent lost his opportunity to bat. . . If any part of the nipsy touched the line of the circle, the batter had one chance to hit it. If the nipsy fell outside the circle, he had three chances. In the last two chances [sic for cases?], the batter tried to strike the nipsy as far from the circle as possible. . . From the point where the nipsy landed, the batter calculated how many unbroken steps or jumps his opponent would require to reach the circle. He stated a number which seemed to him just under what might seem to be possible of accomplishment. The opponent then tried to reach the circle in the assigned number of strides. If he were unsuccessful, as the batter hoped, the stated number of steps was counted to the batter’s score, and he continued to bat under the original conditions. If the jumper reached the circle in the number of steps assigned, he counted the number to his score and became batter. 1949 N. Adams Transcript (MA) 23 Mar 14/5, Children playing nipsy broke a window in the auto of Paul Martin. 1949 PA Dutchman 1.3.2, A nipsi was a piece of wood, about six inches long . . with pointed ends. On each of the four sides was cut a Roman numeral, I, II, III, IV, respectively. The game nipsi was played as follows: One drew a line, the base, and about 25 feet distant a circle about two feet in diameter. The object was to throw the nipsi in the circle (if it fell outside, one was out) and then with a flat bat to hit it as far away from the circle as possible. One batted the nipsi as many times as the Roman numeral which showed on the side of the nipsi in the circle facing the player. If one’s opponent succeeded in catching the nipsi in the air, one was out. When the nipsi had been batted the full number of times . . , the player at bat calculated how many jumps he could safely add to his score. This number he then announced. If the opponent thought he could jump the distance from the nipsi to the circle in the number of jumps the player at bat had hit, he attempted to jump it. If successful, he added the number to his own score. If not, the player at bat had the number to add to his score. . . Others tell me the name used to be “nip” and still others “nips.” . . William Keible . . tells me he knew the game as a boy in Harrisburg, that it was called “catty” and the number of times one hit the catty were called “nips.” 1950 WELS Suppl. neWI, Nip—Flipping a short stick into the air with a long one. 1957 Sat. Eve. Post Letters Buffalo NY, Now as to “Nip.” We would take a stick maybe six inches long and about an inch thick. Whittle down both ends to a point—but not too much so. Then place the stick on the ground, and with a shingle or paddle whang it on one end. It should then fly in the air toward your partner and it was his job to catch it on the fly with his paddle and whang it back to you; Philadelphia PA, Nipsie. This is a game in which a small stick that had been carved to a point was put in a crack in the curb of a sidewalk and then kicked or hit with another stick. The smaller stick was the “Nipsie.” 1970 DARE (Qu. EE10, A game in which a short stick lying on the ground is flipped into the air and then hit with a longer stick) Inf PA245, Nips—four sides, numbered, you get as many turns as numbered side facing up.


Etymological Supplement:

1862 Sheffield & Rotherham Independent 16 May [3]/4, A young girl . . was charged with doing damage to the amound of 6d., at Dodworth. . . The girl was playing at “nipsey,” and drove the piece of wood against the complainant’s window.


1879 Birmingham Daily Post and Journal 29 Aug 4/1, We will venture to affirm that very few persons in this district have ever heard of “Nipsey,” a game which it appears possesses considerable attractions for the collier-denizens of the Barnsley district.

<Brit. Libr. Newspapers, Pt I: 1800-1900; Gale Doc. Num. BC3201226760; also:>

1900 Leeds Mercury 23 Oct 6/5, Yesterday, at Barnsley Queen’s Grounds, William Cawthorne, Barugh, and B. Bird, Ardsley, played twenty strokes each with the “peggy” for £30. “Peggy” is a Lancashire game similar to the “tipcat,” or “nipsey,” played by lads in this district. The game was to be decided by the longest knock.

<Brit. Libr. Newspapers, Pt I: 1800-1900; Gale Doc. Num. BC3201951207>

1944 Yorkshire Dial. Soc. Trans 7.45.11, “Nipsy” was, and still is, a game played by youths and men all over South Yorkshire—I saw it in progress at Gawber a few days ago. . . The equipment is very simple, usually being made from an old pick-shaft. A lenth of about six inches is cut off and each end whittled down to a blunt point—this is the “nipsy” properly so called. The rest of the shaft is used to strike with. Having placed the nipsey on the ground, the player strikes one of the points, and as the nipsey springs into the air, tries to hit it as far as possible. Should he succeed he must then say how many strides there are between the base and the point at which the nipsey has dropped. His opponent may then agree or not, if he does not he must prove by leaping strides that he can do it in a lesser number, and should he succeed the player fails to count in the score.


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