Your definitive guide to Bingo Calls

Bingo Calls

Bingo remains one of the most popular games that people can enjoy with their family and friends, or simply from the comfort of their home at their favourite online casino. But what makes Bingo such an enjoyable game is not simply limited to its straightforward gameplay and great rewards. It is the tongue-in-cheek and quirky nature of the game that lends an added and valuable social dimension to this casino game.

In this article at Betfair Bingo, we will be delving deep into bingo calls, which is how numbers are called out to players once they are drawn. Bingo calling numbers and fun bingo calls are essentially some of the main reasons why this game’s popularity has endured for over four centuries!

We will be covering a brief history of bingo and how the first bingo number names were derived, as well as some different varieties of bingo phrases that are still in use to this day. By the end of this article, you will most definitely be able to distinguish between your ducks, fat ladies, and flies before the caller can shout ‘eyes down for the first number”.

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How did Bingo begin?

Avid players of bingo will be surprised to know that this game has been around for close to half a millennium – this is quite an impressive feat for any game. As with most games, bingo has evolved significantly over time, and there have been marked periods of increased popularity throughout its history.

This game’s origin can be traced back to Italy towards the beginning of the 16th Century, where it started as the Italian National Lottery ‘Il Gioco del Lotto d’Italia. The game moved across to France towards the end of the 18th Century, where in 1778 it was reported in the French press. It was received with much fanfare by the French Aristocracy and received a familiar upgrade to its gameplay.

‘Le Lotte’ was designed with a playing card containing three horizontal and nine vertical rows, with each horizontal row having five numbers and four blank spaces in a random arrangement. Each vertical row contained a different combination of numbers, with the first one only showing numbers 1 to 10, the second 11 to 20, and so on until 90. Each card was designed so that no two ones were alike.

Each player was dealt with a single card, and a caller would draw small wooden tokens numbered from 1 to 90 from a cloth bag. Players would cover called numbers with wooden chips until the first player that managed to cover one horizontal row was declared the winner.

Following success in France, this game would eventually find a permanent home in the United Kingdom, where it would become a widespread game across several industrial towns and cities. Eventually, it migrated into the New World, most notably in the United States where its story continues.

Around 1929, a toy manufacturer named Edwin S Lowe, was visiting a carnival in Jacksonville, Georgia. There, he came across a game being played in a packed tent called ‘Beano’, which happened to be a variation of Lotto. Instead of the intricate wooden chips used by French Aristocrats, players here were placing beans for called numbers and the first person to shout ‘Beano!’ when they completed a line would win.

Ever the entrepreneur, Lowe devised a test version of this game for his friends in New York, where one of his friends mistakenly shouted ‘Bingo!’ in her elation. This word stuck with Lowe, which brings us to the game we all know today.

The curious history of Bingo Calls

We have provided a very brief overview of the history of bingo, but where do bingo calling numbers come in? Well, to under the origin of these fun bingo number names, one must view this game both from a social and from a linguistic perspective.

This game has what many players refer to as ‘Bingo Lingo’, which are the traditional bingo phrases that players hear when a number is called. Some of these bingo names may seem odd – consider randomly hearing ‘Two Fat Ladies’ in the middle of a hall packed with players who are trying to win a cash prize!

These fun bingo calls are the result of certain cues emerging from shared social situations, and also from plays on the language in which bingo is called. Indeed, while there exists a traditional and well-known set of bingo number names, these can change depending on the country and even the language in which the game is played!

The linguistic component

The majority of apparently nonsensical fun bingo calls are rhymes, thought to have originated in London during the mid-20th Century. At a time were microphones were not available, bingo callers had to be able to project numbers clearly so that all players could correctly mark them.

As such, a widespread approach was used where practically every number from 1 to 90 had its rhyme or nickname to distinguish it from numbers with a similar sound. For example, 15 and 50 have a very similar sound, so 15 was usually followed by ‘Young and Keen’, while 50 was followed by ‘Half a Century’ for clarity’s sake.

The social component

Simplistic words and language were not the only things that impacted the various bingo number sayings developed over time. Collective knowledge and society has an important impact on bingo calling numbers, especially during the time of the Second World War. The British Navy were particularly fond of Bingo and adopted inside bingo names such as 51 and 52 being respectively named The Highland Div and the Lowland Div for their Army divisions.

Certain shared feasts such as Valentine’s Day for the number 14, as well as popular movies such as ‘Here Comes Herbie’ after the famous VW Beetle with the number 53. Other common influences that different cultures can use for specific bingo phrases are related to bus routes, train stations, local television channels, and more.

Following the immense boom that bingo experience following the end of the Second World War, its popularity declined towards the end of the 1990s. Mainly, this was attributed to the rise of competing lotteries, as well as other casino games such as table games and slots. It would have seemed that bingo calling numbers were set to become a thing of the past, but bingo’s conversion to online casinos have opened up a new lease of life to this game.

This has brought with it a new range of fun bingo numbers that reflect the 21st Century society, as well as some modern wordplays. Below is a list of some of the most prominent bingo number names that are popular across Britain, Ireland, and other markets.

Traditional Bingo Calls

Our list of traditional fun bingo calls includes some bingo number names that are still used to this very day. While there is no official list of bingo phrases, the ones included in this article have been around for quite some time.

Number 1, Kelly’s Eye – the first number in the pack has a bingo name whose origin is uncertain. Some players believe that it refers to the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, while others think that this nickname comes from the music hall song ‘Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?’.

Number 2, One Little Duck / Me and You – this bingo calling number comes from a visual clue, where the written number 2 resembles One Little Duck swimming. Some Cockney callers also use ‘Me and You’, which rhymes with the number 2.

Number 3, Cup of Tea / A Flea – there is no doubt that tea is the most British drink, so its inclusion as part of fun bingo calls is expected. Both ‘Cup of Tea’ and ‘A Flea’ are simple rhymes, with the latter also being a visual clue since a flea resembles the number 3.

Number 4, Knock at the Door – this one is nothing more than a simple rhyme.

Number 5, Man Alive / One Little Snake – in old conversation, ‘Man Alive’ was used as an expression of disbelief, most notably among sailors, which rhymes with the number. On the other hand, ‘One Little Snake’ is a visual clue.

Number 6, Tom Mix / Chopsticks – Tom Mix was a star of many Western movies in the early 20th Century, who was known for his impressive stunts. This bingo number saying was chosen for 6 as it rhymes, the same with ‘Chopsticks’.

Number 7, Lucky Number Seven – In many cultures, the number 7 is a symbol of good luck and fortune, also appearing in other casino games such as slots. This number also has important symbolism in Catholicism, Islam, and Buddhism.

Number 8, Garden Gate / One Fat Lady – As expected from most bingo numbers, ‘Garden Gate’ is a simple rhyme. On the other hand, ‘One Fat Lady’ is a visual joke that refers to the number 8 having a shape similar to a fat lady.

Number 9, Doctor’s Orders – One of the bingo phrases that has been kept since the times of the army. It was commonplace for army medics to stop working at 9 pm.

Number 10, Blind 10 / Cock ‘n’ Hen – in bingo calling numbers, the prefix ‘blind’ is used for the numbers 10, 20, 30 etc as they have zeros that visually resemble a single eye. ‘Cock ‘n’ Hen’ is a Cockney rhyme slang for ten.

Number 11, Legs Eleven – a visual bingo nickname since the number 11 resembles a pair of legs.

Number 12, One Dozen – a standard linguistic bingo call since 12 is referred to as a dozen.

Number 13, Unlucky for Some – as opposed to number 7, 13 is often referred to as the unlucky number and a symbol of misfortune. In fact, there is a recognised phobia of the number 13 called triskaidekaphobia.

 Number 14, Valentine’s Day – refers to February 14th as Valentine’s Day.

Number 15, Young and Keen – a simple rhyme.

Number 16, Sweet Sixteen / Never Been Kissed – these two different bingo calling numbers refer to the two songs of the same name by Shirley Temple and Val Doonican, which are still quite popular to this day.

Number 17, Old Ireland – a reference to March 17th, St Patrick’s Day.

Number 18, Coming of Age - One of the bingo numbers that refer to the age at which people come of age, a milestone when children enter adulthood and can vote and legally drink.

Number 19, Goodbye-Teens – the last year of a person’s teenage years.

Number 20, Blind 20 / One Score – In old English, a ‘score’ was used as a unit of measure by shepherds to count their livestock. They used to count to 20, a score, and mark it on a stick so as to not lose count.

Number 21, Key to the Door / Royal Salute – another one of those bingo phrases referring to age. Generally, young adults at 21 are considered mature enough to own their own set of house keys. Callers can also say ‘Royal Salute’ as The Queen is honoured with a 21-gun salute.

Number 22, All the Twos / Two Little Ducks – the most common bingo phrase is the play on words of ‘All the Twos’. ‘Two Little Ducks’ refers to the bingo call for Number 2, and players generally reply to the caller with quacking noises.

Number 23, The Lord Is My Shepherd / A Duck with a Flea – The first call refers to the first line of Psalm 21, while ‘A Duck with a Flea’ combines the calls for numbers 2 and 3.

Number 24, Two Dozen - 12 x 2 = 24.

Number 25, Duck and Dive - a simple rhyme.

Number 26, Pick ‘n’ Mix / Half a Crown – the first call is a simple rhyme with some nostalgia as it refers to self-service sweet shops where clients used to pay by weight. ‘Half a Crown’ refers to the old British currency, where half a crown was two shillings and sixpence.

Number 27, Gateway to Heaven – a simple rhyme

Number 28, Over Weight / The Old Braggs – seeing as 8 is the fat lady, 28 is used as a rhyme with an inside pun. The Old Braggs is a military nickname given to the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment of Foot.

Number 29, Rise and Shine – a simple rhyme.

Number 30, Blind 30 / Speed Limit – in most British residential areas, the speed limit is 30 miles per hour.

Number 31, Get up and Run – a simple rhyme.

Number 32, Buckle my Shoe – a simple rhyme.

Number 33, All the Threes – a visual clue.

Number 34, Ask for More – a simple rhyme.

Number 35, Jump and Jive – a rhyme referring to a popular dance in the 40s and 50s.

Number 36, Three Dozen – 12 x 3 = 36.

Number 37, More than Eleven – a simple rhyme.

Number 38, Christmas Cake – a not so simple rhyme.

Number 39, Steps –  a fun bingos call that refers to the John Buchan novel and subsequent Alfred Hitchcock film ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’.

Number 40, Blind 40 / Two Scores – refers to previous bingo phrases.

Number 41, Time for Fun – a rhyme that refers to life beginning after the age of 40.

Number 42, Winne the Pooh  - a rhyme that references the classic character by A. A. Milne.

Number 43, Down on your Knee – a simple rhyme.

Number 44, All the Fours – a visual clue.

Number 45, Halfway There – a visual clue as 45 is half 90, the last number used in Bingo.

Number 46, Up to Tricks – a simple rhyme.

Number 47, Four and Seven – a visual clue.

Number 48, Four Dozen – 12 x 4 = 48.

Number 49, Rise and Shine – a simple rhyme.

Number 50, Blind 50 / Half a Century – this bingo number saying is a visual clue.

Number 51, Tweak of the Thumb – a simple rhyme.

Number 52, Weeks of the Year / Deck of Cards – this bingo number saying refers to the 52 weeks in a year, and also to a standard deck of 52 playing cards.

Number 53, Stuck in the Tree – a simple rhyme.

Number 54, Clean the Floor – a simple rhyme.

Number 55, Snakes Alive – both a rhyme and a visual joke, as the number 5 resembles a snake.

Number 56, Was she Worth It – a bit of strange bingo call, as back in the 1950s, the cost of obtaining a marriage license was set at five shillings and sixpence.

Number 57, Heinz Varieties - Heinz is a popular brand of sauces and baked beans, with the number 57 appearing prominently on its ketchup bottles.

Number 58, Make them Wait – a simple rhyme.

Number 59, Brighton Line – a rhyme used to refer to train route 59 which connect London to Brighton.

Number 60, Blind 60, Five Dozen – 12 x 5 = 60.

Number 61, Bakers Bun – a simple rhyme.

Number 62, Turn of the Screw / Tickety Boo – the former bingo phrase refers to a book of the same name by Henry James about demonically possess children. Tickety Boo is less nefarious, as it is a military phrase that rhymes with 62.

Number 63, Tickle Me – a simple rhyme.

Number 64, Red Raw – a simple rhyme.

Number 65, Old Age Pension Bun – This Bingo number harks back to the time when people used to retire at the age of 65.

Number 66, Clickety Click – a simple rhyme.

Number 67, Made in Heaven – a simple rhyme.

Number 68, Pick a Mate – a simple rhyme.

Number 69, Either Way Up / Meal for Two– a very common and understood sexual innuendo.

Number 70 – Blind 70 / Three Score & Ten – 20 X 3 + 10 = 70.

Number 71, Bang on the Drum – a simple rhyme.

Number 72, Six Dozen – 12 x 6 = 72.

Number 73, Queen Bee – a simple rhyme.

Number 74, Candy Store – a simple rhyme.

Number 75, Strive and Strive – a simple rhyme.

Number 76, Trombones – This bingo number name refers to a famous line from the 1950s musical ‘The Music Man’, which goes by “Seventy-Six trombones led the big parade”.

Number 77, All the Sevens – a visual clue.

Number 78, Heaven’s Gate – a simple rhyme.

Number 79, One More Time – a simple rhyme.

Number 80, Blind 80 / Ate Nothing – a visual clue.

Number 81, Fat Lady with a Walking Stick – as already established, the bingo call for 8 is the old fat lady, so an added number 1 gives the impression of a walking stick.

Number 82, Straight on Through – a simple rhyme.

Number 83, Time for Tea – a simple rhyme.

Number 84, Seven Dozen – 12 x 7 = 84.

Number 85, Staying Alive – a simple rhyme.

Number 86, Between the Sticks – one of the few sporting fun bingo calls, where the numbers allude to the position of a football keeper standing between the goalposts.

Number 87, Torquay in Devon – a simple rhyme.

Number 88, All the Eights / Two Fat Ladies – two visual clues.

Number 89, Nearly There – the penultimate bingo number.

Number 90, Top of the Shop / End of the Line – the final number in Bingo.

Alternative Bingo Calls

We have already established that traditional fun bingo calls are mainly rooted in British culture, but every nation has come up with its distinctive bingo sayings. Here are some select bingo phrases that are different from the traditional ones.

British Bingo phrases

Number 10, Boris’ Den – the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom resides at 10 Downing Street, so the same name is used with the current Prime Minister’s name in this specific bingo name.

Number 17, Dancing Queen – a reference to ABBA’s song of the same title, which topped the charts in the UK.

Number 30, Dirty Gertie – a common rhyme that is derived from Gertrude, a nickname for a statue La Deliverance, which is found in North London.

Number 49, PC – a reference to the BBC Radio Series, “The Adventures of PC 49”.

Number 52, Chicken Vindaloo – a rhyme taken after one of the most popular introduced dishes into British cuisine.

Number 77, Sunset Strip – a bingo number name taken from the popular 1960s television show “77 Sunset Strip”.

Irish Bingo Calls

There is very little difference between Irish and British Bingo calls, with the specific Irish bingo phrases being tied to regional rhymes and gags. These include:

Number 33, Dirty Knee – a simple rhyme.

Number 40, Naughty 40 – similar to the traditional bingo call but being used specifically for this number.

Number 45, Halfway House – while still referring to the number directly in the middle, the term ‘halfway house’ which is a centre for rehabilitation, is used instead.

Number 52, Danny La Rue – a rhyme that references the famous Irish cross-dressing entertainer of the same name.

Modern Bingo Sayings

A fully comprehensive list of modern bingo numbers is still to be completed. And yet, a lot of young people are becoming increasingly interested in playing bingo, so this is leading to an influx of modern fun bingo calls, including

Number 1, One Direction / YOLO – a bingo call referring to the British boyband One Direction, as well as the slang term for ‘You Only Live Once’.

Number 6, Little Mix – also part of bingo fame are fellow X Factor contestants Little Mix, a girl troupe with several chart-topping songs.

Number 7, David Beckham – one of the most popular football players of all time, David Beckham not only rhymes with seven, but he also donned this same number on his gear for most of his career with Manchester United and England.

Number 22, Desmond – a strange reference to Archbishop Desmond Tutu (or Two-two?), a South African anti-apartheid activist.

Number 27, Hipster Heaven – beards, coffee shops in east London, and avocado on toast – a bingo phrases for hipsters.

Number 48, Tag a Mate – social media is an integral part of today’s society, so its inclusion in a bingo calling number is expected.

Number 49, Amazon Prime – a modern rhyme that reflects the rise of online shopping, particularly on websites such as Amazon Prime.

Number 88, Wills and Kate – the future of the monarchy that has captured the World’s attention. 

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If you have managed to get through all these fun bingo calls, then you should congratulate yourself! Don’t worry too much if you cannot remember all of them at one go – the most important thing to playing bingo is having fun with the rest of the players.

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