One of the questions we often hear at Killerspin is: “what’s the difference between table tennis and ping pong?” Some of the common misconceptions concern defining table tennis as “sport” and ping pong as a “game”. Some people think the basic difference is in playing technique, type of equipment, even the number of the bounces the ball can make…
But the only right answer is this: there is no difference between table tennis and ping pong – it’s one and the same!
How did this mix up even happen? In order to understand it, we must travel back to the past through table tennis history.
According to the ITTF website, the first use of the name “Table Tennis” appeared on a board and dice game made by J.H.Singer in New York in 1887, showing that the phrase “table tennis” had been around at least since then.
When the game started in the 1890s, various patented or trademarked names were being used by different manufacturers. So when the English sports company John Jaques & Son became the market leader in the 1920s with their version of the game called “Ping Pong”, they decided that they would only allow their trademarked name to be used. On the 12th December 1901, “The Table Tennis Association” was formed in England, and four days later, “The Ping-Pong Association” was also formed. These two associations would later merge in 1903 to become “The United Table Tennis and Ping-Pong Association”, and then would eventually change back to “The Table Tennis Association” before dying out in 1904.
On the other side of the ocean, the American rights were sold to Parker Brothers. As more and more ping pong tournaments were now being organized, The Parker Brothers also threatened legal action against anybody who used their proprietary trademarked name of Ping Pong without specifying the use of their equipment. Therefore an alternative name was required for this sport and the name Table Tennis was chosen. So, since that time, and particularly since the establishment of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in 1926, the modern game has been known as table tennis.
The name “ping pong” is still used in certain parts of the world, particularly in the USA, probably because it was promoted extensively in the early 1900s by the equipment manufacturers who owned the trademark and therefore it became ingrained in peoples minds. Indeed, Ping Pong is still a federally ®istered trademark in the USA and is now owned by Escalade Sports.