It was Anzac Day on Monday, a national day of remembrance. It is also closely connected with a form of gambling called two-up, a coin toss game where two coins are flipped on a flat wooden paddle by the “spinner”. Players bet on whether the coins land as two heads, two tails, or a head and a tail, called “odds”.
Two-up has become a part of the Australian identity, and is considered to be our national game. You can see games of two-up depicted in the films The Sundowners, Forty Thousand Horsemen, The Shiralee, and Wake in Fright, and it features in songs by AC/DC and Little River Band. The novel Come in Spinner by Dymphna Cusack takes its title from the call given by players to encourage the spinner at the start of play.
Although pitch and toss games were popular among the convicts and on the goldfields, it is thought that the game of two-up as we know it evolved among Australian soldiers during World War I. Not only does the art of war involve a lot of hanging about, but Australians were the best-paid soldiers in the First World War, with disposable income to burn. Gambling was therefore a popular pastime, and became a traditional game for Australian troops.
When returned soldiers came home to Australia, two-up was illegal, but a tactfully blind eye was turned by authorities when it was part of Anzac Day celebrations. It was only in the late 1980s and early 1990s that it became legal to play two-up on Anzac Day (you can also legally play it on Victory in the Pacific Day and on Remembrance Day after midday, although there are certain places, such as casinos, where you can play two-up on any day of the year).
The big catch under the Gaming Act is that you are not allowed to make a financial profit from two-up, and if you organise a game and end up making money, you are required to donate it all to charity. So this is a form of gambling you can play knowing that the money is going to a good cause. And if you end up giving away some of you hard-earned cash, that’s a small sacrifice to make compared to those who gave their lives for their country.
The flat piece of wood which holds the coins in a game of two-up is called the kip. The origin of the slang term is not known for sure, but it may the same as the British slang kip, meaning “a short sleep”.
If so, the slang term kip comes from the Dutch kippe, meaning a cheap tavern or dosshouse, which by the 19th century had become a slang term for a brothel (cheap taverns and dosshouses having a tendency to be used in this way).
In either a tavern, dosshouse or brothel, although you might get a chance to doze off, you aren’t expecting it to be a place where you can regularly bed down – hence kip to suggest a short snooze. In Ireland, kip is still used to mean a dirty, messy place, in keeping with the meaning of an unsavoury inn.
The use of the word kip for the paddle used in two-up suggests that it was in such low dives that the game had its origins, or at least that it was a popular form of entertainment in such venues.
Kip is also used as a boy’s name, perhaps originating as a nickname for Christopher or Charles, but in practice often short for a surname such as Kipling, or a “true nickname” with no connection to the name at all.
Use of the name dates to at least the 19th century, although it isn’t possible to tell from records how often the name was given independently rather than as a nickname. The name is particularly associated with the United States, where it once had a bit of social cachet as an upper class nickname.
Kip was on the US Top 1000 from the end of World War II until the mid 1980s, peaking at #380 in 1965. In 2014, there were 50 baby boys named Kip in the US and 12 named Kipp (boys named Kipton, Kipper, and Kipling could well be called Kip for short). In the UK in the same year, there were 5 boys named Kip.
A famous Australian namesake is the amusingly named Kip Gamblin, a ballet dancer who has worked on several opera operas, both here and in America; his dance background has seen him chosen for the movie Moulin Rouge!, and for teen drama series Dance Academy. The name might also remind you of Kip McGrath Education Centres, the tutoring business founded by an Australian schoolteacher named Kip.
Former AFL footballer Brodie Holland and his wife, former model Sarita Stella, named their son Kip, twin brother to Bowie. The inspiration for Kip’s name was model/actor Kip Pardue, whose nickname came about because the initials of his name, Kevin Ian Pardue, spell KIP.
I have seen a few baby boys named Kip in recent years, and this looks like a short vintage-style nickname due for a comeback, in the style of Gus and Ned. Cute and fresh, Kip also manages to slyly reference an Australian tradition: it’s patriotic in a much more subtle way than Anzac and Digger. The name may be rare, but isn’t as much of a gamble as you might think.
Kip received an approval rating of 69%. People saw the name Kip as fun and friendly (29%), and cute and charming (17%), but 21% thought it was only suitable as a nickname. Nobody thought the name Kip was dorky or nerdy.
(Picture shows a commemorative two-up set, complete with wooden kip; although this set has specially made coins, traditionally it is played with Edwardian era, or at least pre-decimal, coins)