[Note: Parts of this entry were previously at tipcat.]
tippy-cat n Also tippy, rarely old tippie cat [Var of tipcat n, found also in England (earliest attestation, in form tippy-cat-run, from 1849)] chiefly Missip-Ohio Valleys, West
1896 Davis Co. Clipper (Bountiful UT) 8 May 1/3, Councilman Tolman and City water-master Holbrook carry[ed] off the laurels in playing quoits and Street Supervisor Day beat the kids playing “tippy.” 1904 Wilmington Jrl. (OH) 8 June 7/2, Enter into the sport as they do; play “old tippie cat” again, and instead of being a bobtailed horse in fly time, try to soak in some of the sunshine of life. 1915 St. Louis Star (MO) [4 Aug] 2/4, She learned . . her son was playing “tippy” on the street and that he was so intent on the game that he ran in front of the automobile after the “tippy” block. 1922 San Francisco Examiner (CA) 9 Mar 16/6, Up back of the Redding school yesterday we saw laddies playing “tippy cat.” Set us back a score and a half of years in fancy. 1936 Detroit Free Press (MI) 24 June 6/3, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of us old coots out on the streets these cool summer nights reviving tit-tat or tippy cat. 1945 Western Folkl.4.182 UT, Another name for the game was employed in Utah, where it was known as “Tippy.” It was played much like the game “Cat” except that the number of tries the batter was entitled to was determined by tossing the peg into a series of concentric circles marked off on the ground. 1950 WELS Suppl. ceWI, Tippy-cat—game played with long stick and a short stick. 1953 Brewster Amer. Nonsinging Games 160 IN, Tippy. . . Equipment needed consists of the “tippy” and a paddle or bat for each of the players. The “tippy” is a wooden block an inch thick, about four inches long, and cone-shaped at each end. 1953 Brewster Amer. Nonsinging Games 160 IL, Tippy. . . The “tippy” is a wooden block an inch thick, about four inches long, and cone-shaped at each end. The sides are numbered one, two, three, and four. . . First, the players mark off the goal lines. Then the player who is to begin takes his position on the opponent’s goal line and lays the “tippy” on the ground in front of him. He strikes one end of it, causing it to jump up, and drives it toward his own goal. When the “tippy” has come to rest, he receives as many additional strokes as the number facing up indicates. As soon as he has taken the number of strokes to which he is entitled, his opponent strikes the “tippy” from that point toward his goal and takes whatever additional number is indicated. . . The first player to knock the tippy across his goal line is the winner of the game. 1957 Sat. Eve. Post Letters MI, I remember the boys playing a game with 2 pieces of wood—They’d hit the end of the smaller with the bigger; this they called “Tippy.” 1966 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 MT1, Tippy. 1986 Pederson LAGS Concordance, 1 inf, cwFL, Tippy or kitty—4″ sticks projected by striking. 1989 St. Louis Post–Dispatch (MO) 25 May sec E 2/1, A neighbor . . much younger than I, was working in his yard the other day, and I asked him if he had ever played tippy. “Never did,” he replied. “Not sure I ever heard of it.” This reinforced my belief that it was a game of my time. Whether it was strictly south St. Louis, I don’t know. The tippy was a piece of wood an inch wide and an inch high and about 4 or 5 inches long. . . Three of the sides bore the Roman numerals I, II and III. . . The fourth side bore an ominous looking “X.” . . The number of hits a player got depended on the number that came up when he rolled the tippy on the alley surface. If a player rolled the “X,” it was “Tough, pal, you miss a turn.”
1849 Dinsdale Glossary Teesdale 136, Tip-cat, tippy-cat-run, n. A pastime played in a somewhat similar way to cricket, generally between two boys.