RB had grown up rough—“there were some alcohol issues and substance abuse issues in his family,” his lawyer, Richard Edwards, told me—and spent most of his life pinging around the correctional system.

(Dr. Shock, The Walrus, September 2015)

What does "pinging around" mean? Thank you.

  • 1
    ping 4 [informal] to contact someone by phone or email; Ping me – we’ll do lunch -- I believe that this use is somewhat figurative; it conveys all of the senses on that dictionary page combined. -- Sorry, that wasn't quite right. Rereading the sentence, I think it focuses more on the sound, like ping-pong, or clink-clank, and thus would make it mean something like "bouncing around". Aug 24, 2015 at 6:23

2 Answers 2


'Pinging' here means the same as 'bouncing'.

Ping is an onomatopoeia for the sharp, high pitched sound usually made by small objects bouncing off something. Table tennis got the nickname 'ping pong' from the sound of the ball bouncing off the bat and the table.

'Pinging' can mean both making the sound, and the bouncing action that can cause the sound. In this case it suggests that he didn't spend very much time at each correctional institution before ending up at another one.

  • 1
    Personally I would think the action of a pinball in a machine more than table-tennis in this case, but +1 for "bouncing", as "bounced around" is another common phrasing which means essentially the same thing.
    – nkjt
    Aug 24, 2015 at 10:37

Given the sentence I figure it would mean something in the lines of "in and out" the correctional system, meaning he went there often.

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