[Ads-l] "to ping"

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Fri Mar 31 06:12:00 EDT 2017

>     On 31 March 2017 at 03:29 Joel Berson <berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
>     Which sense of "ping" doesn't the OED have?

This from Wiki:  "Ping is a computer network administration software utility
used to test the reachability of a host on an Internet Protocol (IP) network.
... Ping operates by sending Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) Echo
Request packets to the target host and waiting for an ICMP Echo Reply."

Note the "Echo" in the above passage from Wiki, which would tend to confirm
Geoffrey Nathan's intuition of the etymology of the term.

So we'd have the (chronological) sequence:  sonar ping => Unix ping => ping your
ISP => pinged by a tweet.

Whether assorted politicians are drawing on the original sonar sense or the
later ISP-related sense, it's difficult to decide.  Either way, the political
extension doesn't make that much of a sense as a metaphorical extension, even if
the intended meaning of the users is fairly clear in context.


(ex-OS-9 Users' Group [UK branch], OS-9 being a baby Unix for freestanding
workstations, before Linux was a gleam in the eye of the gods of cyberspace)

>     Under "ping, int. and n.", 3.a., "A short pulse of high-pitched, usually
> ultrasonic sound, as transmitted (or received back) by a sonar transducer;
> (also) an audible signal by which this is represented to a user of such
> equipment.", are:
>     1943   Penguin New Writing 18 27   ‘Daisy had a ping about an hour ago...
> We're doing an Asdic sweep’... A ‘ping’ is the slang term for an echo.1956
>   Deep-sea Res. 3 267   The system had a repetition rate of about 10 pings per
> second and a ping length of about two milliseconds.1967   J. B. Hersey
> Deep-sea Photogr. iv. 59/1   It was possible to obtain the height of camera
> above bottom simply by measuring the time interval between the arrival at the
> ship of the sound pulse, or ping, and its bottom echo.1998   S. Sontag et al.
> Blind Man's Bluff p. xiv,   World War II images of subs shooting torpedoes, of
> men trapped sweating within cramped steel cylinders as Japanese sonar pings
> rang through their hulls and depth charges fell around them.
>       Under "ping, v.2", 2.a., I find:
>     1999   Sea Angler May 72   Circling and pinging the wreck with the sounder
> showed it to be quite a large lump.2000   National Geographic Adventure
> Mar.–Apr. 69/1   A four-foot-long missile-shaped sonar ‘tow fish’ pinged into
> the depths, producing a black-and-white picture of the sea bottom.
>     Joel
>     From: Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU>
>     Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 9:34 PM
>     Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "to ping"
>     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').
>     Geoff
>     Geoffrey S. Nathan
>     ------------------------------------------------------------
>     The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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