The origin of pickleball’s name has long been surrounded by conflicting narratives… in this article I will uncover the truth!
Two main stories have emerged to explain the etymology of pickleball: the dog story and the boat story. According to the dog story, the sport derived its name from a mischievous dog named Pickles, who would often snatch the ball during matches. Conversely, the boat story posits that the term ‘pickleball’ was derived from a rowing term known as ‘pickle boat,’ which referred to a less skilled crew.
Despite efforts from the Prichard family to discredit the dog story, asserting that Pickles did not exist until years after the game’s invention, the dog story has gained greater popularity and recognition. It is believed that the dog story’s appeal and memorability have contributed to its widespread acceptance.
However, the name ‘pickleball’ has faced criticism for potentially undermining the sport’s seriousness. Joel Prichard even proposed an alternative name, ‘Tenny Pong,’ which ultimately did not gain traction.
Regardless of its contested origins, pickleball remains a highly regarded and enjoyable sport.
What’s in a Name?
The conflicting origins of pickleball’s name, whether it be derived from a dog or a rowing term, have led to ongoing debates among the Prichard and McCallum families, with the dog story gaining more popularity despite the Prichard family’s debunking.
According to the dog story, the sport was named after a dog named Pickles who would run off with the ball during game play. On the other hand, the boat story suggests that the name came from a rowing term called ‘pickle boat’, which referred to a weaker crew.
The Prichard family supports the boat story, while the McCallum family supports the dog story. The dog story has become more widely known and accepted, with some believing that it was chosen because it is more appealing and memorable. However, the Prichard family has debunked the dog story, stating that Pickles was not around until years after the game was invented.
Despite the ongoing debates and criticisms of the name, pickleball remains a popular and enjoyable sport.
The Dog Story
One version of the story suggests that the sport was named after a dog named Pickles. According to this account, Pickles was a black cocker spaniel owned by the McCallum family. Pickles would often chase after the ball during the game and run off with it, causing laughter and amusement among the players. As the sport gained popularity, the name ‘pickleball’ was eventually chosen to honor the mischievous dog.
However, there are conflicting claims about the accuracy of this story. The Prichard family, who were instrumental in the development of the sport, have debunked the dog story. They argue that Pickles did not come into the picture until several years after the game’s invention.
Nonetheless, the dog story has become the more widely known and popular explanation for the origin of the name.
The Boat Story
An alternative account suggests that the sport was named after a term used in rowing, specifically the ‘pickle boat’, which refers to a crew made up of leftover or weaker rowers. This theory proposes that the name ‘pickleball’ was chosen to signify the sport’s inclusive nature, as it is played by people of all ages and skill levels.
According to this narrative, the term ‘pickle boat’ was adopted to convey the idea that pickleball is a sport that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their athletic ability. However, it is important to note that the boat story is not universally accepted and has faced criticism from proponents of the dog story.
The debate surrounding the origins of pickleball’s name continues, with both narratives contributing to the sport’s rich history and appeal.