Ping Pong is a game that we kind of take for granted. It’s been around for over a hundred years, and unless you’re an active and frequent player, you probably don’t think about its history too much.
But believe it or not, this seemingly simple game does have a long and rich history. Everything about it developed over time, even its famous name.
If you’ve ever wondered why Ping Pong is called Ping Pong, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll talk about two main topics:
- A brief history of Ping Pong
- How Ping Pong got its name
So let’s jump right into Ping Pong’s unique story.
A Quick History of Ping Pong
Like we mentioned previously, Ping Pong has been around for over 100 years. To be more precise, it was developed in Victorian England formally, but history hints that British military officers played something like it as early as the 1860’s.
As it became more popular in England, it was a game largely reserved for wealthier families. They would play after dinner, using books in the middle of a table as an imitation net and a pair of books as makeshift paddles. Back then, a golf ball was what stood in for a Ping Pong ball.
The materials used for Ping Pong changed a lot over the years. While books and golf balls were used initially, a company called J. Jaques & Son Ltd. began selling merchandise specifically designed for the game.
However, the light and bouncy Ping Pong ball we know today wasn’t created until 1901. It was developed by a British man named James W. Gibb, who was a huge fan of the game.
The rubbery racket design we know and love came shortly after, created by a man named E.C. Goode that same year. These designs were invented at the same time that Ping Pong saw an upswing in popularity, with tournaments and world championships being held already.
Why Ping Pong is Called Ping Pong
Now that we’ve covered some of the history, you’re probably still wondering how the name “Ping Pong” came into being. The truth is incredibly interesting.
According to Steve Grant, the author of Ping Pong Fever: The Madness that Swept 1902 America it wasn’t a name that was specifically invented for the game. In fact, the term came about in the 1880s from a song that was frequently performed onstage in London.
This song continued to be popular for several years, so it was hovering in the societal atmosphere at the time the game it would eventually name was growing in popularity.
When James W. Gibb created the light celluloid bail used today, players observed that the ball made a distinct sound when it hit the paddles. The sound, as you might have guessed, sounded like either “ping” or “pong,” and varied based on how tight to covering on the paddles was.
Jaques & Son Ltd almost immediately began calling their game Ping Pong, trademarking the name. The rights to the name were eventually sold to a company called Parker Brothers, who upheld the trademark. This led to other organizations needing to refer to it as table tennis instead.
To this day, the name has stuck – and all because of a simple sound the ball makes on the paddles.