When the game ping-pong was invented in England at the end of the nineteenth century, it was played with champagne corks and called whiff-whaff after the sounds made when they were hit by a paddle, but later on people switched to using celluloid balls, and since the sound changed the name did too, to reflect the new noise. In 1901, a British manufacturing company saw an opportunity, so they trademarked the name, and later on that was bought by the game production company Parker Brothers. There have been some myths that the name ping-pong is culturally insensitive because it makes fun of Chinese and we should use table tennis instead, but that's apocryphal. The real reason people say table tennis is because other manufacturing companies couldn't use ping pong so they marketed the generic term instead, which is pretty interesting.
3/23/2022 11:48:52 am
According to Harry Mount at the Daily Telegraph (22 Nov, 2012) the game was originally called 'Gossima', which was owned by the Jacques games company. The company then relaunched as Ping Pong. Slazenger trademarked their version of the game as Whiff Whaff, which had been used colloquially before hand. Later table tennis was adopted by everyone else as it wasn't trademarked and Jacques threatened legal action on tournaments that didn't use their equipment.
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.