How Does The Text Say It?

cienci322The Meaning of Ping: Electric Signals and Our Search for Connection

by Kathryn Schulz

… What is a ping? As a word, it already seems partial, like a suffix: beeping, keeping, hoping, gaping, dropping, stopping, ___-ping, ping. In fact, though, it is an onomatopoeia; it has no linguistic origins, no etymology but noise. It comes from the sound of things that go ping. In recent years, those things have mostly been electronic, and we now use the word to mean, basically, “get in touch via gadget”: “Ping me in the morning.” As that usage grows more common, it is starting to annoy some people, and for good reason; it can feel simultaneously self-important and inhuman, like the MBA version of the juvenile poke. In its defense, though, the word fills a new linguistic need, while cleaving close to its precedent: “Ring me.” It is also a word with a past, one that predates smartphones and chat apps and jets — and airplanes in general, and telephones in general, and, for that matter, all electronics. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was first used in 1833. Back then, it referred to “An abrupt ringing sound, such as that made by a rifle bullet in flying through the air, [or] by a mosquito.” On second thought: Don’t ping me in the morning …

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