Published on April 1st, 2021 | by Sumit Bhowal0
A guide to Bingo calls and their meanings
If you’ve ever taken a trip to the Bingo halls across the UK, then you’ll know that alongside the game comes an entertaining caller, who guides and delights as you play. And you would’ve experienced the various names used for the numbers being called.
The process of calling out numbers can sometimes be a bit dull, so the caller is there to liven up the place, and adding nicknames to the ball numbers is just one way to do that – they may also use a range of rhyming slang, puns, and cheeky phrases that relate to particular numbers.
But have you ever wondered what those Bingo nicknames mean and how they came about? Well in this article, you’ll discover all about those famous Bingo calls!
Where it all began…
The very first version of Bingo actually originated Italy in the 1500s, and was known as Lo Gioco del Lotto D’Italia. Since then, the game has developed to the modern version we know and love today, and is played across the world both in Bingo halls and at casino sites, like https://bingo.paddypower.com/.
But it was in the 1950s in the UK, when the game had been re-introduced to the nation, and supposedly where the first nicknames for Bingo numbers began. Housey Housey was a version of Bingo commonly played by servicemen during World War Two, and to add to the entertainment, the numbers were given nicknames that mainly related to military terms, rhyming slang or bawdy jokes.
From there the Bingo calls have stuck and been used ever since, instantly recognisable whenever you play a game of Bingo today. Ranging, of course, from one to 90, these nicknames can be arranged into four main categories:
The most common nickname that Bingo numbers are given, are names that rhyme with the number itself. Usually this comes with a comical element too or famous character. The aim is to make the game more engaging, as well as the numbers being catchy and more memorable. For example, ’42 – Winnie the Pooh’ which alludes to the loveable bear character, or ‘85 – Staying Alive’, a famous song of The Bee Gees.
One of the most memorable rhymes is ’17 – Dancing Queen’. Not only does this rhyme but also references another classic song – Abba’s Dancing Queen. In fact, the lyrics of the song feature the number explicitly. A final number to note is the number 10. As this links to Number 10 Downing Street, the nickname always refers to the ‘den’ of whoever the Prime Minister is at the time – making it more relevant to the audience.
Most of the nicknames for Bingo numbers are pretty easy to understand, and are simply a play on words or common associations with the particular number. For example, the calls ’16 – Sweet Sixteen’ and ’65 – Old Age Pension’, are pretty self-explanatory and refer to an event that we can all recognise as happening at that age. The numbers 12 and 24 also follow this style, and are simply referred to as one dozen and two dozen, respectively.
Some of the most famous Bingo calls are those that link to the shape of the numbers themselves. The number 22 will forever be known as ‘Two Little Ducks’ as they clearly resemble what is being described. Likewise, the nicknames ‘Legs Eleven – 11’ and ‘Two Fat Ladies – 88’ are based on the shapes of the numbers and their association with similar-looking anatomy. For these iconic Bingo calls, the way in which they are called can be switched around, with the phrase coming before the number.
For other Bingo calls, the nicknames come with a rich backstory and historical context. For instance, ‘39 – Steps’ refers to the 1915 novel by John Buchan of the same name. Whereas, the rhyme ‘59 – Brighton Line’ is in relation to trainline running from the seaside town to Victoria Station, and is notably mentioned in Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest.
When it comes to the Bingo numbers, like ‘9 – Doctor’s Orders’, these names take us full circle in the history of Bingo calling, as they hark back to their war-time origins. This nickname in particular refers back to the slang term for a laxative pill given to troops at the time. It’s nicknames like these that embody the cheeky and entertaining nature that we can expect and love of Bingo.