when referring to a person, perhaps a friend of yours, is slang for
someone that does stupid things. And Yo: just one yo, is also slang
spoken in order to greet someone or get their attention. Like, “Hey
Yo.” But Yo is also used as a reply when someone calls your
The yo-yo most young boys are familiar with is usually a bright colored
spinning reel on a string. The Longman Dictionary of American English
says, “The yo-yo (you - you) is a toy you hold in your hand that is
made of two circular parts joined together that go up and down a string
as you lift your hand up and down.”
The string may be about a 30 to 36 inches long. Maneuver the yo-yo
correctly and it will run up and down the string, back and forth,
in and out of your hand repeatedly. Sling it out and it will return
time and time again. It can be an enjoyable toy to play with; or it
can be most frustrating to the beginner. After hours of persistence
and practice; total frustration and even anger, the novice can achieve
skillful tricks with the yo-yo. Tricks that will highly amaze casual
As a barefoot, shirt-tail country kid, most of my own frustration
while learning about the yo-yo came when the string would not stay
straight. It got seriously twisted and tangled and would not operate
properly. The yo-yo just flopped around. It ran sideways so crooked
and out of balance that it would not return to my hand. And that ain’t
The first rule of yo-yo logic is to make sure the string is straight
and untwisted. After letting it “unwind” at the bottom of your string,
run your finger and thumb down the string to make sure it is not twisted.
Then “spool” the complete string between the two disc. Holding it
in the right hand, palm down, sling it out again. It should then work
properly, returning to your hand.
Meanwhile, back to the beginning of this story!
Well, I started out wanting to tell you about an entirely different
yo-yo. In my area of the Ark-La-Tex
in NE Texas, the yo-yo was a manual labor work tool. Labor intensive!
It has a flat blade on a small metal frame attached to the end of
a wooden handle. The better quality ones are made with a serrated
blade and may be just a bit heavier than the cheaper ones. You can
still find a yo-yo in hardware stores. Although I really believe
they aren’t in as much demand as they once were before the advent
of some “great” modern power tools.
This yo-yo hand tool is about 3 feet long and used to cut weeds
and grass. A lot of my youthful black friends around the Rambo Community
called the tool a “weed slinger.” In recent years I have seen it
called a “weed whacker”, or “weed buster.” To me it is still a yo-yo
and I have seen my dad sling it for hours and hours while cutting
his walking trails throughout the oilfield where he worked. If the
weeds and grass are big and tough, it has to be slung into the vegetation
really hard, perhaps repeatedly hard, to make it cut. And that is
mighty close kin to manual labor.
While holding the handle of the yo-yo in one hand, just sling it
back and forth; back and forth, cutting the weeds and grass. The
blade will cut from both sides. If it is sharp, it will do a pretty
good job. Slinging it into the weeds, back and forth, side to side,
may in some way resemble the movement of a real yo-yo on a string:
descriptive of how it is used. Thus, getting it’s name yo-yo. I
don’t know! Sounds reasonable though!
I believe the yo-yo used for weed cutting is known far and wide.
When the red string on the gasoline “Weed Eater” won’t cut the tough
ones, the yo-yo will. It only requires a little more muscle power.
I have learned the name of some things known in one area may have
an entirely different name in other places.
© N. Ray Maxie
"Ramblin' Ray" October
1, 2009 Column