History of Ping Pong

If you’ve never heard of gossima, nor flim-flam nor whiff-whaff nor ping-pong, then you’re probably not alone. Yes, before table tennis became more than an after-dinner competition compromising a cleared dinner table and a cork ball and racket, these onomatopoeic diminutives were used to describe the game in its early stages in the later 1800s.

Today, table tennis and ping-pong (name given by J. Jacques & Son; patented by Parker Brothers; now owned by Escalade Sports) are two interchangeable names that have stuck. The game took off in England and Wales in the 1920s after a hiatus, and since 1926 the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation [USATT is the USA Table Tennis governing body]) fashions and maintains the rules and standards.

Before the 1900s, a refashioned form of ping pong was introduced and played in China and Korea. Over the next several decades (post-1920), ping-pong was played in many countries. Today, it is said that 30 million players play competitively and several million more play recreationally. Ping-pong is considered a special sport, as it hasn’t changed a lot over the years. Though the ball has gotten lighter (made of celluloid and not cork) and the paddle is made of lightweight wood and given dimpled rubber matting, the innate human skill demanded of the sport keeps it pure. The ITTF enforces rigorous rules and sets to make standards of play fair for everyone. Ideally, someone who lives in a more wealthy country will have the same equipment and chance to win as any one else.

These ping pong fun facts keep the game uniform and fair: Ping-pong became an Olympic sport in 1988 while over 140 countries are part of the ITTF. In the USA alone, there are over 300 ping-pong clubs and 350 competitions (sanctioned tournaments) annually. Moreover, the most prominent countries that participate in ping-pong are Taiwan, Korea, Sweden, and China (the USA is 40-something in the world). The table has gotten bigger with the current dimensions set at five feet wide, two and a half feet high and nine feet long. The same table is used for singles and doubles competition. The rules for both games have similarities and differences, however.

In a single’s match, two players hit the ball back and forth on a regulation ping pong table, attempting to score a point against each other—the rules are very identical to tennis. In a single’s game, however, the ball does not have to cross the court on a serve. That is, in a single’s match, the ball can hit either the right or left side of the tennis table. In a double’s match, despite this, the ball must cross the court and hit the same side in which the ball was originally served. Both matches are played to eleven points. If there is a tie (a deuce) at ten points, players will alternatively serve until one gets two points ahead of the other. That competitor is declared the winner. Often, matches are played in sets of five or seven games, depending on the type of tournament.

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