Sunday, June 24, 2012

"T for take all"

From the OED online, definition for "teetotum":
A small four-sided disk or die having an initial letter inscribed on each of its sides, and a spindle passing down through it by which it could be twirled or spun with the fingers like a small top, the letter which lay uppermost, when it fell, deciding the fortune of the player; now, any light top (sometimes a circular disk pierced by a short peg), spun with the fingers, used as a toy.The letters were originally the initials of Latin words, viz. T totum, A aufer, D depone, N nihil. Subsequently they were the initials of English words, T being interpreted as take-all: see quot. 1801. On the French totum or toton, the letters are T, A, D, R, meaning, according to Littré, Totum, tout, Accipe, prends, Da, donne, Rien (nothing).

1720   D. Defoe Life D. Campbell (1841) 50   A very fine ivory T totum, as children call it.
1778   F. Burney Evelina III. xxi. 240   And turn round like a tetotum.
1800   Sporting Mag. 15 48   A man was lately convicted..for selling a teetotum.
1801   J. Strutt Glig-gamena Angel-ðeod iv. iv. 341   When I was a boy the te-totum had only four sides, each of them marked with a letter; a T for take all; an H for half, that is, of the stake; an N for nothing; and a P for put down, that is, a stake equal to that you put down at first.
1818   T. Moore Fudge Family in Paris v. 23   Though, like a tee~totum, I'm all in a twirl, Yet even (as you wittily say) a tee~totum Between all its twirls gives a letter to note 'em.
1893   W. S. Gilbert Utopia (Limited) 11,   She'll waltz away like a teetotum.

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