By News Team
Last Updated: 1st June 2020
If you’ve ever played bingo in the UK, you will have heard the caller following up the numbers with distinctive nicknames. You might hear references to little ducks and cups of tea, and wonder where these phrases come from.
How Bingo Began
Bingo has its origins in Lo Gioco del Lotto D’Italia, the original Italian lottery first played in 1530. The game evolved throughout Europe into the 1800s, then travelled over to the United States of America with early migrants, and became popular in the early 1900s.
In 1929, toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe saw ‘Beano’, as it was then called, being played at a carnival in Georgia. Back at home in New York it caught on with his friends. During one particularly exciting game someone called out “Bingo” instead of “Beano” and the name stuck.
The history of bingo calling dates to the re-importation of the game to the UK in the 1950s. Housey Housey, a version of Bingo played by servicemen during World War Two, was very popular, and many bingo call nicknames have origins in military terms, rhymes and slightly bawdy jokes.
A Complete List of Bingo Numbers and Sayings
Bingo calls are a combination of rhyming slang, puns, and cheeky phrases that relate to particular numbers. Originally the process of drawing out the balls with the numbers on was quite time consuming, so the calls are designed to liven up the process and engage the players in the game, some even have response calls!
Here’s a complete list of bingo calls that you might hear in UK bingo:
|2||One Little Duck|
|3||Cup of Tea|
|4||Knock at the Door|
|6||Half a Dozen - Tom Mix|
|10||(Prime Minister)'s Den|
|13||Unlucky for Some|
|15||Young and Keen|
|16||Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed|
|18||Coming of Age|
|21||Royal Salute - Key of the Door|
|22||Two Little Ducks|
|23||Thee and Me|
|25||Duck and Dive|
|26||Pick and Mix|
|27||Gateway to Heaven|
|28||In a State - Overweight|
|29||Rise and Shine|
|31||Get up and Run|
|32||Buckle my Shoe|
|33||Dirty Knee - All the Threes - Fish, Chips and Peas|
|34||Ask for More|
|35||Jump and Jive|
|37||More than Eleven|
|41||Time for Fun|
|43||Down on your Knees|
|46||Up to Tricks|
|47||Four and Seven|
|50||Half a Centry|
|51||Tweak of the Thumb|
|52||Danny La Rue|
|53||Here Comes Herbie - Stuck in a Tree|
|54||Clean the Floor|
|58||Make them Wait|
|62||Turn the Screw - Tickety-Boo|
|63||Tickle Me Sixty Three|
|65||Old Age Pension|
|67||Stairway to Heaven|
|69||Favourite of Mine|
|70||Three Score and Ten|
|71||Bang on the Drum|
|74||Hit the Floor|
|75||Strive and Strive|
|78||39 More Steps|
|79||One More Time|
|80||Eight and Blank - Older callers might use 'Ghandi's Breakfast' -"Ate Nothing"!|
|81||Stop and Run|
|82||Straight on Through|
|83||Time for Tea|
|86||Between the Sticks|
|87||Torquay in Devon|
|88||Two Fat Ladies|
|90||Top of the Shop|
Funny Bingo Calls
Some bingo calls come from words which rhyme with the number in question.
So number 10 becomes “Boris’s Den” or indeed whoever the Prime Minister happens to be at the time, both rhyming with ten and referring to Number Ten Downing Street, the London address of the UK Prime Minister.
Number 17, Dancing Queen, is not only a rhyme for the number but a reference to the lyrics of the Abba song, Dancing Queen, “You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.”
Dirty Gertie is used for the number 30, and refers to a bawdy song, Dirty Gertie from Bizerte, sung by allied troops in North Africa during the Second World War. Some callers might use Burlington Bertie, recalling another song from the Music Hall era, Burlington Bertie from Bow.
Other Interesting Bingo Calls
Some bingo calls are not purely based on rhymes; some bring to mind popular associations of particular numbers.
For instance, 39 Steps, from the 1915 novel The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan that has been the basis for several feature films.
Shotts Bus, 56, is perhaps less well known to those outside Scotland, 56 being the one-time number of the bus route from Glasgow to Shotts in North Lanarkshire.
Similarly, Brighton Line is a rhyme for 59. The Brighton Line being the one running to the seaside town from Victoria Station, memorably mentioned in Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest.
Two fat ladies is based on the shape of the number eights that make up 88.
History of Bingo Calls
A number of bingo nicknames have their origins in mid-twentieth century military slang.
Number 9, Doctor’s Orders, supposedly comes from the slang term for a laxative pill given to troops.
Number 1, Kelly’s Eye, has cloudier origins – some sources point to a comic strip in boy’s adventure comic Valiant, published between 1962 and 1976, where the character Kelly possessed a magic amulet in the shape of an eye.
Many of the references come from the 1950s and 1960s. 76 Trombones, after the song from the 1957 musical The Music Man, and 77 Sunset Strip, which name checks the television detective series of that era.
Bingo calls help to clarify all 90 numbers, making it easier to tell numbers apart if you’re far away from the caller.
Bingo Call in Online Bingo
As bingo is played in pubs, coffee shops and online, regional variations in bingo nicknames filter into the game. In online bingo, players are able to chat to each other about the game, and their own original or funny bingo nickname variations are spread and popularised.
Whether you are playing online bingo, in a pub or in a bingo hall, these nicknames help make the game fun to play and it remains one of the most popular gambling games in the world.
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