Synopsis of Toy
There is much more than meets the eye with Tiddlywinks. Though it may appear to be a simple game, playing it successfully requires a great deal of dexterity and skill. Most consider it a novelty for children, but this is also deceptive: it began as a game for adults and is still played in a very serious fashion by adult-run clubs all over the world. In fact, the game of Tiddlywinks has a very involved and interesting history.
Tiddlywinks originated in England during the late 1800’s. Its name comes from “tiddly wink,” which is English slang for an unlicensed pub. Tiddlywinks was popularized in pubs as a diversion to be indulged in while downing a few pints, much like darts or checkers. The game consists of a mat with a small, round pot at its center and several little discs made in four colors (blue, green, red, and yellow). Blue and red are always partners against yellow and green and are laid across from each other diagonally around the pot in alphabetical order.
Within each color there are six disks: four smaller ones called winks and two larger ones known as squidgers. These disks are arranged by the lines of four boxes drawn at the corners of the mat. The idea is for the players to shoot their winks into the pot by pressing a squidger down on the edge of the wink to make it ‘flip’ towards the pot. The player can also keep the other players from reaching the pot by “squopping” one of their discs: in other words, by landing one of their winks on top of another player’s wink. The covered wink can’t be moved by its owner until it is uncovered.
Englishman Joseph Fincher first patented Tiddlywinks in 1888. He gave it the name “Tiddledy Winks,” one of many accepted variations for the spelling of Tiddlywinks. The name fell into the public domain in 1890 as the game’s popularity was picking up steam, and this led to many different manufacturers in both the U.S. and the U.K. tarting the game up with various gimmicks. The most popular gimmick was creating a “sports” version of Tiddlywinks. Soon enough, store shelves were filled with tennis, football, horseshoes, bowling and baseball versions. To accentuate the sports theme, the playing pieces were often reshaped to resemble miniature tennis rackets, horseshoes, etc.
Tiddlywinks had become a popular parlor game for adults. Some people even threw Tiddlywink parties, but the novelty soon began to wear off and Tiddlywinks had lost its favor with the adult public by the beginning of the 20th century. Its popularity was kept alive as a game for children and certain pubgoers quietly kept the game alive for mature players. In the mid-1950’s, Tiddlywinks began to regain its popularity as an adult diversion at colleges like Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard.
Today, Tiddlywinks leads a double life as a kid’s game on toy shelves and an adult pastime that is played by Tiddlywinks Associations around the world. There are even National and World Tiddlywink Championships for the enterprising Tiddly-winker. Though its popularity has ebbed and flowed over time, its challenges and durability ensure that Tiddlywinks will always make a comeback.