Table Tennis and the Dunlop Family

Table tennis is an old memory. I haven’t played the game for a long long time now. When I posted that picture, I had the idea of checking the history of Ping Pong. As a matter of fact, I learnt that the Chinese didn’t invent the game. The Brits did, of all people.

Table Tennis and the Dunlop Family

I found a website where I learnt a lot of things. I know the days of personal websites are over now, but it’s a shame. The number of things you’d learn from web resources like these is absolutely amazing.

Now, I suppose you’d have to scour social media for hours and not quite be able to find what you want. Ah, Yes! Of course, there is Bing and ChatGPT… They do spit stuff with their algorithms. Yet, who wrote what? Where is it from? Is it only true? We’ll have quite some fun in the years to come with the content that these half-baked algorithms will be spewing.

Table tennis
Table tennis at rest: I love the bokeh of that lens. Nikkor O 35 mm f/4

Facts and Figures

Let’s cut the digression and move on with whiff-whaff (US version). Here is what I learnt.

“260 million people worldwide, both in clubs and as a leisure activity. […] Who invented the game? What is the difference between table tennis and Ping-pong (or Whiff-Whaff in the US)? […] Contrary to what many people think, Asians didn’t invent the game! Even though Asian players dominate Worldwide it, Ping-Pong was invented in the UK! In 1881, to be precise.”

Like many sports, middle-class England was the first promoter of the sport. At a dinner party, the guests discuss the game of tennis using the dining table to illustrate their points. They used a champagne cork as a ball, cigar boxes as bats, and books as nets! Ping-Pong was born!

Why is it called Ping-Pong then?

Ping-Pong’s first name was Gossima. A famous Ping-Pong bar in Paris was even called after that name! When it arrived in France, it was quickly called “Pim Pam”. In the United States, it was called “whiff whaff”. It was also called “indoor tennis” in the English-speaking countries or “tennis en salle” in the French-speaking countries.

Table Tennis
The famous Gossima bar in Paris is dedicated to Ping Pong

Many different names for the same sport! In 1901, Hamley’s  marketed the first game kit under the brand name “Ping-Pong”. This term was later widely adopted by players. The term Ping-Pong word was chosen in reference to the noise that the ball makes on the bat and then on the table.

Ping Pong
Hamley’s 1902 Ping Pong game kit

As to “table tennis” the term appeared around 1925, when one founded the International Federation.”


Table Tennis and the Dunlop Family

There is one other thing I see on that picture. It’s the little Dunlop Ping Pong ball. It reminded me of my days in Pembroke Mews, W8 in London. I was living next door to a very eccentric British couple whom I later found out were from the Dunlop family. They owned a remarkable Mews home, beautifully decorated, opposite my loft. I was merely renting but they were the rightful owners of this beautiful place.

They were very friendly and invited me for drinks a couple of times and I returned the invitation. I even went running around Holland Park with that gentleman. Very posh location. The man of the house owned a vintage white Rolls Royce he often worked on over the weekend. I drew a picture and painted a watercolour of that scene. Here it is.

Table tennis
Pembroke Mews in 1997. The neighbour used to park his Rolls Royce right opposite my flat

You can find the Dunlop family history at this URL.

Dunlop ball
Fancy a game of Pim Pam (original French moniker for Ping Pong)? It’s worthy of note that Dunlop never made Gossima rubber balls. Thank God for that!


Yann Gourvennec
Latest posts by Yann Gourvennec (see all)
Villa Louvat
Prev Villa Louvat, rue Boulard, Paris 14th district
Next Halfway Through Dinner in Denfert Rochereau
%d bloggers like this: