While hitting at the Killerspin House last week, my friend asked me a pretty elementary question: What is the difference between Table Tennis and Ping Pong? I told him that there is no difference, but realized I was not 100% sure.
So I convened the Killerspin House team to confirm my answer. We did a little research and we discovered an interesting history behind the difference in names. And while there is a litany of theories about the difference between ping pong and table tennis, we concluded that my initial answer was correct: Ping Pong is Table Tennis, and Table Tennis is Ping Pong!
To discover how the name-schism began, we had to look way back through the history of the sport.
According to the ITTF website, the phrase "table tennis" has been around since at least 1887 when it appeared on a dice and board game made by J.H. Singer in New York.
When the sport started to reach wide-spread popularity in the 1890s, various names were patented and trademarked. "Ping Pong" happened to belong to the English sports company, John Jaques & Son, who became the market leader in the 1920's. They pressed players to use their trademarked name from the start and were successful enough that a "Ping-Pong Association" was formed in December of 1901, just 4 days after the formation of "The Table Tennis Association."
On the other side of the Atlantic, American company Parker Brothers acquired the naming rights for Ping Pong and 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 organized tournaments and clubs. They chose to use Table Tennis. 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 so extensively in the early 1900s by Parker Brothers. Ping Pong is still a federally registered (®) trademark in the USA and is now owned by Escalade Sports.