[Ads-l] Antedating of "Yahtzee"

Barretts Mail mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 28 01:49:40 UTC 2023

The most plausible scenario that ran through my head was transmission of the dice game from India to Tibet since they share a border, and the word yakṣī was retained with the game. The tourists overheard the Tibetan pronunciation and used it in a pun with their yacht. “si" is also a reasonable pronunciation of 子, which is a noun marker in Mandarin, and the annexation of Tibet happened in 1950, so many variations can be imagined. 

If the Bolivian pouch is still 1,000 years old, then the Manifesto website I cited remains laughably unreliable. I’m sure a story could be dreamt up for Hebrew, too. After all, the Jews have been in China for more than a millennium (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaifeng_Jews; Pearl S Buck wrote a novel about them) and had plenty of time and contact to spread their language. 

But I agree the story is interesting and entertaining, but no more than that without something more tangible. 

Benjamin Barrett (he/him/his)
Formerly os Seattle, WA

> On Feb 26, 2023, at 20:37, James Eric Lawson <jel at NVENTURE.COM> wrote:
> Unfortunately, a somewhat more credible site (*Smithsonian Magazine*) than the *Yahtzee Manifesto* has constructed another narrative wherein the "Bolivian Yahtzee pouch from 1000 CE" is in reality a "1,000-Year-Old Pouch From Bolivia [that] Contains Traces of Five Mind-Altering Drugs":
> https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/1000-year-old-pouch-bolivia-contains-traces-five-psychoactive-drugs-180972123/
> As long as we examine only phonetic evidence and remain "agnostic with respect to transmission", Hebrew יָצִיא, yāṣîʾ, pronounced yaw-TSEE (or ya-TSEE today), notably translated from 2 Chronicles 32:21 as "they that came forth [of his own bowels]" seems worth considering, but leaves a large gap when the 'dice game' semantics come into play.
> Nevertheless, without additional evidence, the 'Yacht-see' derivation, and attendant "Yacht Game" origin, are as fictional as the Manifesto's account.
> Your yakṣī derivation is no less interesting and entertaining for all that. Also, the idea that the notional "wealthy couple" riffed a pun off some poorly understood and misheard Tibetan word or phrase had flitted across what I still think of as my mind. Perhaps some fellow whose command of English was slightly infirm wanted to see the yacht? and play the game?
> On 2/24/23 17:35, Barretts Mail wrote:
>> I know nothing of this topic, but there is a tantalizing possibility that Yahtzee comes from yakṣī (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakshini) or a related word.
>> https://tinyurl.com/yc62p3n5
>> The call of the cuckoo to the thin sheep of spring: healing and fortune in Old Tibetan dice divination texts
>> Brandon Dotson
>> pp 5-6
>> ###
>> Remaining agnostic with respect to transmission, it is interesting to note here that in India dice are also connected with female divinities in the form of apsaras-es and yakṣī-s (along with male yakṣa-s), who are often associated with fertility and childbirth.
>> ###
>> Dotson cites
>> https://tinyurl.com/3uursruc
>> Material Matters: Archaeology, Numismatics, and Religion in Early Historic Punjab
>> Daniel Merton Michon
>> 2007
>> pp 151
>> ###
>> The die in Block H was found in association with a sculpture of a malevolent looking yakṣa. Thus, their frequent association with ritual implements, stūpa shrines, and semi-divine beings suggests another use, that is sortition, or oracular gambling, which was very common throughout India as early as the beginning of the first millennium.
>> ###
>> The astragalomancy described in the documents uses three dice, so there is no clear connection to the Yahtzee gameplay as we known it.
>> However, the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yahtzee) on the topic says it comes from Yacht because the earlier version was played on a yacht, which seems a more likely origin.
>> The Yahtzee Manifesto ties them together (https://www.yahtzeemanifesto.com/History/yahtzee-history.php), claiming that the yacht-playing couple discovered the ancient game while visiting Tibet. As to the credibility of this page, it is worth noting that a picture of a Bolivian Yahtzee pouch from 1000 CE is featured on the page. Nevertheless, the pronunciation of yakṣī is very close to Yahtzee, particularly as might be heard by tourists, and certainly a wealthy couple might well start calling the game yacht-see as a pun.
>> Benjamin Barrett (he/his/him)
>> Formerly of Seattle, WA
>>> On Feb 23, 2023, at 23:01, James Eric Lawson <jel at NVENTURE.COM> wrote:
>>> 1953  Library of Congress *Pamphlets, Serials, Contributions to Periodicals* _Catalog of copyright entries, Third Series, Volume 7, Part 1B, Number 1_ (HathiTrust) 7B(1)   YAHTZIE Yahtzie, everybody’s game; any number can play. [Score sheet and rules] Crawfordsville, Ind., c1952. Sheet. © Edward C. Gullion (sole owner of Yahtzie); 1Oct52.
>>> https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000052000607&view=1up&seq=606&size=125&q1=yahtzie
>>> Having muddied the water, I guess it's incumbent on me to clear it. OED's 1957 Jan 1 date for "yahtzee, n." is substantially correct, 1jan1957 being the date the application for the _trademark_ YAHTZEE was published and the OED definition being "the proprietary name of a game (originally ‘the yacht game’) played with dice and a score sheet", where "proprietary name" is used in a special sense (see OED Online 'proprietary name').
>>> However, as historical lexicography, OED might better serve those who use it by at least hinting at the history of 'yahtzee' before Lowe's trademark was granted. The history may include an early form of the game, Tibetan 'ya-tsee', although I've been unable to confirm that. The history does undoubtedly include the concurrent and slightly earlier term 'yahtzie', the name and rules of which game varied only slightly if at all from 'yahtzee'.
>>> Also, Lowe's copyrights of the label and pamphlet ("How to Play Yahtzee") used the word 'yahtzee' in 1956 before it was trademarked; similarly, Gullion's 1953 copyright of the "score sheet and rules" for 'yahtzie' used the word in 1953 with only a minor orthographic difference before the word was, ahem, seized by Lowe, who seems to have had a better grasp of the US system of 'legal' (those are scare quotes) proprietorship than Lowe.
>>> Again, OED might better serve by at least mentioning the shady history and multiplicity of forms ('yatzie', 'yahtzie', 'yahtzee'), even if the Tibetan 'ya-tsee' cannot be substantiated.
>>> On 2/23/23 10:12, James Eric Lawson wrote:
>>>> OED 1957 Jan 1; ADS-L (Reitan) 1956 Apr 3
>>>> 1954  *Calgary Herald* (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) 23 Jul 15/6 (newspapers.com) (*advt.*) YATZIE—(pronounced YACHT-SEE) We have found the rules and score sheets for this amusing dice game.
>>>> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/119533033/yahtzee-here-yatzie/
>>>> On 2/21/23 13:58, Peter Reitan wrote:
>>>>> The copyright registration for the game label with the name Yahtzee on it was filed April 3, 1956.
>>>>> https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uiug.30112100648531&view=1up&seq=575&q1=yahtzee
>>>>> Sent from Mail<https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=550986> for Windows
>>>>> From: Shapiro, Fred<mailto:fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
>>>>> Sent: Tuesday, February 21, 2023 1:49 PM
>>>>> Subject: Antedating of "Yahtzee"
>>>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>>>>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>>> Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
>>>>> Subject:      Antedating of "Yahtzee"
>>>>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>> Yahtzee (OED 1957)
>>>>> 1956 Los Angeles Times 15 Apr. 1A-13 (adv't) (Newspapers.com)  Introducing =
>>>>> the most exciting new game of skill and chance in years  YAHTZEE.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list