Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Garrett from IN. Garrett Wonders, “Who invented ping pong? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Garrett!
Do you like to play tennis? It can be so much fun to volley the ball back and forth across a net. As you swing your racket and swat the ball toward your opponent, you always have to be on your toes, ready for the ball to come flying back toward you.
But what if you traded the tennis court for a table? And your racket for a paddle? And what if the tennis ball was much smaller and made of plastic? As you hit the ball back and forth, it would make a unique sound: ping…pong…ping…pong. What are we talking about? You've got it, table tennis!
Table tennis got its start in England at the end of the 19th century. It began as a Victorian-era parlor game when fans of traditional lawn tennis decided to turn their dining room tables into smaller versions of a regular tennis court.
Instead of nets, they probably used a row of books. The first paddles might have been cigar box lids. For a ball, players may have used a small rubber ball or even a champagne cork. And instead of table tennis, early players of the game called it "whif whaf," "gossamer," or "flim flam."
These names probably arose from the sound the ball made when it was hit and bounced on the table. This unique sound also led to another popular name for the game: ping pong. Today, Ping-Pong® is a federal trademark that was first registered by Parker Brothers, Inc. in the United States. Ping-Pong® now refers to a particular brand of equipment used to play the sport now universally known as table tennis.
Today, table tennis is played on a small, hard table with a short net stretched across the middle. Plastic balls are hit with rubber-coated paddles. Only one bounce is allowed on each side of the net, and players score points when their opponent fails to return the ball.
The modern game of table tennis features incredibly fast play. Players must have lightning-quick reflexes in order to be successful. Most players try to hit the ball in such a way that a spin is put on the ball, making it harder for their opponent to return.
A worldwide governing body, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), was formed in 1926. It still oversees the sport, including setting the game's official rules. Today, there are over 220 member associations in the ITTF.
Millions of people enjoy the sport of table tennis. In particular, the most successful table tennis players in the modern era tend to be from Asian countries, including China and Korea. Table tennis has also been an Olympic sport since 1988.