Table tennis is a sport in which two or four players hit a lightweight, hollow ball back and forth using table tennis rackets. The game takes place on a hard table divided by a net. Except for the initial serve, players must allow a ball played toward them only one bounce on their side of the table and must return it so that it bounces on the opposite side. Points are scored when a player fails to return the ball within the rules. Play is fast and demands quick reactions. A skilled player can impart several varieties of spin to the ball, altering its trajectory and limiting an opponent's options to great advantage.
The game originated as a sport in Britain during the 1880s, where it was played among the upper-class as an after-dinner parlors, and then commonly known as "wiff-waff". A row of books were stood up along the center of the table as a net, two more books served as rackets and were used to continuously hit a golf-ball from one end of the table to the other. Alternatively table tennis was played with paddles made of cigar box lids and balls made of champagne corks. The popularity of the game led game manufacturers to sell the equipment commercially. Early rackets were often pieces of parchment stretched upon a frame, and the sound generated in play gave the game its first nicknames of "wiff-waff" and "ping-pong". A number of sources indicate that the game was first brought to the attention of Hamley's of Regent Street under the name "Gossima". The name "ping-pong" was in wide use before British manufacturer J. Jaques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901. The name "ping-pong" then came to be used for the game played by the rather expensive Jacques’s equipment, with other manufacturers calling it table tennis. A similar situation arose in the United States, where Jaques sold the rights to the "ping-pong" name to Parker Brothers.
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