Y: Yo-Yo

As I kid, I played with a variety of toys.  Looking back, I realize a lot of them took a ridiculous amount of dexterity for a young person who was only a few years away from learning to hold a fork. You could drive yourself insane trying to work a paddle ball and what sadist came up with jacks? [Side note: Jacks are now HUGE and made of plastic! Where’s the fun in that?]

The one toy that I could never conquer is the yo-yo. It would go down but never come up. I practically gave myself carpal tunnel trying to get it right, to no avail. No matter the type (I remember having sparkly and glow-in-the-dark Duncan Imperials), they all failed in my hands.

1791 YO-YO ILLUSTRATION

People have enjoyed this exercise in frustration masquerading as a toy for centuries. Records show yo-yos being used by children in Ancient China and Greece, in 16th-Century Philippines as weapons (my preferred method as a kid), during the 1700s by stress-relief seeking  soliders, and as a status symbol by European nobility. They arrived in the United States in the 1800s and then fell out of fashion, until reappearing in the 1920s. There’s a great history at the Spintastics Skill Toys site about the 20th-Century battle to patent and produce this toy.

YO-YO, GREEK STYLE

It’s amazing that this tiny object has endured, fascinated, and frustrated humanity for so long. It definitely taught me about persistence (and failure!) because I put years into becoming a yo-yo champion. I had to set that dream aside but it was definitely fun trying.

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