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Table Tennis History – Table Tennis Vs Ping Pong

Table Tennis History – Table Tennis Vs Ping Pong

Table Tennis or Ping Pong (referred to as t-term and p-term, respectively, throughout this article so as to avoid excessive keyword phrase use): which is the correct term to describe the Olympic sport loved by many around the world? Depending upon whom you ask, you will probably get a different answer. Some people believe the t-term is the proper name to use when referring to a more serious level of play. Athletes who train for hours each day train to play table tennis, not ping pong – according to some.

The p-term is a more relaxed term used to describe the recreational player. The group of kids playing in the basement or garage are playing ping pong – again, the opinion of some. This logic is shared by many around the world, the exception is China were the p-term is still an honorable title for a sport which they dominate. The truth is that the sport and the game were once considered to be one in the same, and the terms are still used interchangeably by many.

The t-term was first used in 1887 on a board game created by J.H. Singer in New York. The p-term was not registered as a trade name until 1901 by John Jacques in England. He later sold the rights to the American gaming company Parker Brothers. This was a time of intense popularity for the game, and it was known by both names. At the height of its popularity, in December 1901, “The Table Tennis Association” and “The Ping-Pong Association” were formed in England. The two associations merged in 1903 to form “The United Table Tennis and Ping Pong Association”. This would seem to indicate that, at the time, the two terms were used to describe the same activity.

As interest in the game began to diminish, the association became defunct in 1904. When interest in the sport began to revive in the 1920s, it became referred to more often using the t-term simply to avoid trademark disputes with Parker Brothers’. The company was extremely aggressive in protecting their rights to the p-term and threatened legal action when necessary. This fear of trademark infringement might explain why the governing body of the sport, the ITTF, uses the t-term instead of the p-term in its title.

Without question, a major divide was created when manufacturers were no longer able to use the p-term when describing equipment they manufactured for the sport. Manufacturers began to label their items with the t-term. At that time there was not a difference between the equipment other than the branding. Parker Brothers’ simple act of trademarking and prohibiting use of the p-term created two camps of players.

In 1935, as pockets of players began to form around the United States, The American Ping Pong Association, whose members could afford to use the more expensive Parker Brothers’ equipment, the US Amateur Table Tennis Association, and the National Table Tennis Association merged to form the USATT [http://www.usatt.org/]. The hope was that one association would be more effective in setting guidelines and meeting expectations for the sport. People continued then, and continue to this day to use both terms to describe the sport.

Whichever term you choose to use, just continue to play and encourage others to join you. Promotion of the sport, using whichever name you choose, is more important than a fight over the name.