[Ads-l] "to ping"

Geoffrey Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Thu Mar 30 21:34:24 EDT 2017

I bow to Wilson's recollection here--I don't have the time at the moment to investigate, but I suspect that the UNIX use comes originally from the submariner's use, which is probably onomatopoetic.

I did just check the OED, which doesn't have that sense (although it does have the sense of 'the sound of a piston misfiring').


Geoffrey S. Nathan
WSU Information Privacy Officer
Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259
On Half-time: Generally not in office on Monday or Fridays but I do read email.
Nobody at Wayne State will EVER ask you for your password. Never send it to anyone in an email, no matter how authentic the email looks.

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 9:10 PM
Subject: Re: "to ping"

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Re: "to ping"

On Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 10:23 AM, Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at wayne.edu>

> I assume the etymology is from the old UNIX command, which puts it back i=
> the pleistocene era (in computer years).

No doubt, but non-techies like me are most familiar with the term from
"piniging" our ISP=E2=80=99s as part of a speed-check. There. I=E2=80=99ve =
just pinged my
ISP - a local, semi-buttocked operation call "PennTeleData - and the
response has taken 0.19 sec.

FWIW, I connect this political kind of "ping" with using sonar to ping the
potential target of a submarine in order to determine its position, so as
to know how a spread of torpedoes needs to be aimed in order to hit that
target, hence, metaphorically, to use sonar to determine the direction in
which a politician needs to aim his rhetoric in order to hit his target

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
American Dialect Society<http://www.americandialect.org/>
The American Dialect Society, founded in 1889, is dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other ...

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list