15

乒乓 is the modern word for ping pong, based around onomatopoeia (and similarity to 兵 for phonetic element) and, as some people claim, shape. I was wondering if this shape explanation is true, or little more than a folk etymology of the word.

That is to say, are 乒 and 乓 (or one of them) used in words (or on their own) other than in "乒乓"? The easiest way is to see if these were ever used in classical chinese.

If they are true historical characters, what did they mean before? Are there any words which still use them now other than in ping pong?

Quite a diverse question, but interesting to me.

12

The earliest texts with 乒乓 I can find is vernacular novels of Ming dynasty.

《西遊記》 Journey to the West as an example:

如此二三日,又聽得後宰門乒乓乒乓,磚瓦亂響。——Chapter 10

他掄槍舞劍,一擁前來,照行者劈頭亂砍,乒乒乓乓,砍有七八十下。——Chapter 14

乒乒乓乓,好便似殘年爆竹;潑潑喇喇,卻就如軍中炮聲。——Chapter 16

“乒” and “乓” are used together as onomatopoetic in history. :)

  • 2
    point of order: it's really misleading to call this "classical Chinese"/"literary Sinitic"/之乎者也/whatever, which seems to be used incorrectly throughout this thread to refer vaguely to "old stuff". This confusion stems ultimately from the original question, which seems to be asking whether the characters have ever been used historically, in any linguistic venue, to refer to anything other than ping-pong; not whether the characters have appeared in "classical chinese", specifically. I'm curious how anyone could possibly know for sure that the characters never appeared in "classical chinese". – Master Sparkles Jul 6 '15 at 2:41
  • Yes, I agree with you. As I have point out, the texts are from vernacular novels. Actually I cannot find evidences in earlier classics before Ming dynasty. :) – approachinese.com Jul 6 '15 at 3:05
  • 1
    My point is that in the last line you're concluding something about usage of these characters in a form of writing (classical chinese) that is not borne out by your otherwise-excellent evidence from a different form of writing (early vernacular). – Master Sparkles Jul 6 '15 at 10:46
2

乒 is onomatopoetic, like bang! or crack! 乓 is a complementary character to 乒, to denote 乒乓 table tennis, ping pong.

They are not used in classical Chinese. 乒 may be used in older vernacular texts, but all modern usage is about table tennis, if zdic.net and Wenlin are to be trusted.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.