Where Did Ping Pong Originate?

Did you know that the game now known as Ping Pong or Table Tennis was first called Whiff-Whaff? Other names followed, including Gossima, Ping Pong and Table Tennis. The latter two were the names that stuck. Both became registered names for a game that is today played by millions of people worldwide.

Where did ping pong originate?

Although the origins of ping pong are British, the game was first played in South Africa and India. History sources show that British Military officers were stationed in those countries in the 1860s and 1870s. Reportedly, they started their own version of the indoor game, decades later registered as Ping Pong and Table Tennis.

The army officers mimicked outdoor tennis by stacking books across the center of a table to serve as the net. Hard book covers or the lids of wooden cigar boxes were used as bats, and golf balls or Champagne bottle corks served as balls. The sounds of the bats striking the balls led to the name whiff-whaff.

When did women start playing ping pong?

Since the establishment of the British Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1917, army women were restricted in what they were allowed to pursue. Despite years of encouragement by the high command, senior officers would not relent.

They insisted that any excess physical activity would project the army women ‘sterile’ and ‘sexless.’ Eventually, the high command gave in. Serving women were allowed to participate in sports they deemed “suitable” for females. Along with ping pong, other suitable sports included archery, cricket, hockey, badminton, swimming and netball.

When did ping pong become popular in Britain?

In the late 1800s, upper-class Victorians in England had a lot of leisure time and various ways to enjoy life. One of their favorite outdoor pastimes was lawn tennis, which began as far back as the 12th century. The return of the army corps from South Africa and India introduced ping pong to the British, where it quickly became popular.

There came a time when boredom during winter and the rainy seasons had the upper-class Victorians looking for indoor entertainment to pass the long hours between dinner and bedtime. And thanks to the returning soldiers, ping pong was the perfect parlor game to replace their favorite outdoor game of lawn tennis.

When did ping pong come to the U.S.?

Meanwhile, John Jacques, an English sports equipment manufacturer, noticed the rapid growth of the game. In 1891, he marketed a kit in a game box containing a net, along with a wrapped cork ball and two paddles, calling it Gossima. He later registered it as ping pong. Before long, Jacques sold the rights to Parker Bros., a game board manufacturer in the U.S., who still holds the rights to the game today.

After the name changed from whiff-whaff and gossima to ping pong, in 1926, officials decided to rename the game to Table Tennis, which they believed was a more respectable name. They established the International Table Tennis Federation, which took over the management and organization of global competitions.

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Riley Draper

Avid table tennis player, world traveler, and content creator. Follow on Twitter. Connect on LinkedIn.