more geeking: the tippe top
Here's an add-on to my comments about languages. It's gonna draw some slightly confused search-engine hits.
Clearing out some random old stuff, I found a little top that I'm pretty certain I got in a Crackerjack box back around 1969.
Yeah, moving thousands of miles back & forth across the country, & somehow these odd little nuggets stay with me.
Squinting closely, I can see that the maker is Cosmo, & MADE IN CHINA. Do you know that searching for top cosmo only gets you Cosmopolitan articles about sexual positions...?
It's an odd little device, 13/16" across, shaped sorta like a button mushroom. When you spin it by its stem, it behaves for a few seconds, then lies down like it's about to grind to a stop, but suddenly stands up on the end of its stem & continues to spin for up to a minute.
I remember Mom telling me this was a "tippy top." Thrashing around, I find its proper name is apparently tippe top, though nobody seems to know WHY.
The Wikipedia article struck me as half-arsed, but a launching point.
Turns out that entire HUGE PhD theses have been written about this little thing.
Well, naturallly, I went shopping. Quickly enough, I discovered there's really NOT much out there, even on eBay.
On a wild hunch, I started Google Translate, finally got it to understand what I wanted (after finally calling it a "spinning top"), & learned that a toy top is a kreisel, or "gyro."
Some sites say the tippe was invented in the 1950s, which seemed highly unlikely, or the 1930s, which still struck me as odd, though someone did receive a German patent in 1936 for a Wendekreisel -- at last, another term! -- which translates directly as "turning top" but translates functionally as "top that turns (over)."
So, back to Wikipedia, seeking help in other languages. The French is better, & the German better still.
And finally I find an earlier patent, granted to one Helene Sperl in 1891, though she appears to never have done anything commercial with it.
The German article's header calls it a Stehaufkreisel, or "self-stabilizing top," which IMO takes the wonder away from the unique "turning over" trick.
And nobody mentions the "tippe" part except in footnotes.
(The other articles are almost as useful as the English, though the Serbian (se) makes an effort at explaining the basic physics of precession, which you'll be familiar with if you've ever owned a gyroscope. Yes, I had a few. You're surprised; I can tell.)
Now properly armed, I went out shopping again, & soon found a site aimed at the kreiselsammler, "collector of tops."
And to my delight, right there on the homepage, is something entirely PERFECT: a tippe in blue milled aluminum that has its own matching stand so you can annoy coworkers without having it skip across your desh & present a trip hazard.
A mere 16,80 €, too. All in all, 49 more hits, from inexpensive one-piece plastic tops (available in bulk for even less) & turned wood to a string-spun version (like a fighting top) & tiny precion metal tops.
Turns out there's a Japanese company, Koma, that makes frighteningly precise metal tops that'll set you back $20-$100 on eBay. These are aimed at (I can't hope to make this stuff up) spin-time competition. Going through past eBay sales, Koma has been known to make tippes (from titanium, yet), though (given the shipping costs) I'm reluctant to go searching the Japan sites.
With one last end-run through DuckDuckGo, I find a tippe on Amazon UK (though not called that, in fact with a rather dumbed-down name) at a reasonable price.
More data to go back to Amazon US... later.
Quite a story, though needing detail (like what the heck Frau Sperl was smoking when she came up with the notion, & where "tippe" originated). It's a short, odd book, just waiting to be written. And that's why my current publisher rolls her eyes when I pitch a project.