Bingo Calls Guide

Even if you have never played a game of bingo in your life, chances are you’ve heard a group of grown adults quacking like ducks at the call of the number 22.

Last Updated on August 17, 2020 by Lillian Grey

Bingo calls were heavily influenced by the Victorian era in the East End of London, with a little help from the military. These days, the calls are seeing a bit of a revolution, with some drastic changes to the rhymes used in modern bingo.

If you have ever wondered where some of the amusing bingo calls originated - then you’re in the right place. We at BingoSites.net have put together a comprehensive guide on bingo calls, covering a brief history and some of the most commonly heard calls you’ll hear when trying your luck.

Where did Bingo Calls Originate?

Where did Bingo Calls Originate

Historians say that the first-ever bingo calls originated in around the early to mid-1800s. The rise of the bingo call was influenced by the military, who famously played it for some light relief from the horrors of the trenches during The Great War. One which springs to mind is ‘Waterloo - 62’.

Meanwhile back in London, there were other influences. Most people have heard of Cockney Rhyming slang, the most commonly used example is ‘apples and pears’ meaning stairs.

Legend has it that in 1829 when a man called Bobby Peel set up the first-ever police station in London, people nicknamed them ‘Bobbies and ‘Peelers’. This term is still used in parts of  England to this day.

Cockney rhyming slang is thought to have really taken off in the mid-1800s in the East End of London. Thieves would use it as a secret language so they could discuss their crimes and dodgy dealings without anyone knowing what they were talking about.

Later on, it’s said that Cockney Rhyming Slang played a big part in the way the bingo numbers were called out to us.

There’s also the heavy use of idiomatic phrases amongst the working classes. This means a phrase which doesn’t mean what it says. For instance, ‘turn over a new leaf’ has nothing to do with gardening. This way of speaking became very common.

It’s thought that giving a number a nickname not only entertained punters, but also gave players time to find the number on their bingo card before the next one was called. These were often off the cuff and improvised, but a lot of them have stuck around to this day.

Commonly Used Bingo Calls in the UK

Of course, when you are playing bingo it’s not just the amusing number rhymes you will hear. There are a few other calls to be aware of, usually to spring you into action or warn you what’s coming next.

Our team at BingoSites.net have put together a list of broadly used terms, as well as the numbers and corresponding calls you will hear.

Bingo Terms Used

  • 1TG: This call stands for ‘One to go’. It means that there is only 1 more number to be called before you land a winning combination.
  • 2TG: You guessed it, this means there are 2 numbers remaining until you land a winning combo.
  • Eyes Down: Whether land-based or online this term is still often used. ‘Eyes down’ is your indication that the game is about to start so you should pay attention.
  • House: Otherwise called ‘line’ or a ‘line win’, when you have marked off a full line you win the smaller prize. For instance, with the traditional 90-ball bingo players win a small prize by matching 1 line, then another prize if matching for 2 lines. The biggest prize for the ‘full house’.
  • Full House: These two simple words always bring joy to the lucky winner. A full house is when all numbers have been marked off and the top prize is awarded.

Each bingo platform will differ slightly but generally speaking, you will see the same classic calls which have been used for decades.

Bingo Number Calls

Now we are going to move onto the numbers. As an example, with 90-ball bingo, each ball will have its own nickname. These will differ depending on where you are playing, but some go across the board.

With the less obvious calls, we’ve also included a quick explanation of the origin or reason for the call. You will see that a lot of them are used simply because they rhyme.

 

  • Number 1: Kelly’s eye - Some believe this is a reference to the infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly who was missing an eye. Others believe it comes from the British military.
  • Number 2: One little duck - The 2 resembles a duck and is one of the first visual calls we think of when it comes to bingo.
  • Number 3: Cup of tea - What can we say, the English love a good cuppa. Plus it rhymes.
  • Number 4: Knock at the door - You guessed it 4 rhymes with ‘door’.
  • Number 5: Man alive - Another rhymer.
  • Number 6: Half a dozen - A dozen being 12, 6 being half.
  • Number 7: Lucky seven - In many countries, 7 is considered to be a lucky number.
  • Number 8: Garden gate - This one is thought to have originated in East London and could have been used as secret code for a meeting or drop off point for gangs and smugglers. Another theory is that it refers to a children’s skipping game of the time.
  • Number 9: Doctors orders/Doctors joy - During the time of World War II, and due to a diet low in nutrition, soldiers would often be given a laxative called ‘number 9’. They commonly nicknamed the pill ‘doctors joy’.
  • Number 10: Boris's Den - This one is very English, referring to number 10 Downing Street. The name changes depending on who is the current Prime Minister and residing in this famous house.
  • Number 11: Legs eleven - Most people know this one, the pair of number 1’s is said to resemble a pair of legs.
  • Number 12: A dozen - Sometimes called a monkey's cousin, which is cockney rhyming slang for a dozen.
  • Number 13: Unlucky for some - 13 is considered an unlucky number in some cultures, namely Western. In Italy, the number is considered to be lucky, and in Christianity, it represents a symbol of crucifixion.
  • Number 14: Valentine's Day.
  • Number 15: Young and keen - This one is just rhyming slang. Some callers might say ‘rugby team’ instead.
  • Number 16: Sweet sixteen - A term used since around the 1970s, referencing a young woman coming of age.
  • Number 17: Dancing queen - The origin of this call is from the 1976 Abba song Dancing Queen. Of course, the opening line to the song was ‘you are the dancing queen; young and sweet only 17’.
  • Number 18: Coming of age.
  • Number 19: Goodbye teens.
  • Number 20: Getting Plenty - The reason? It rhymes.
  • Number 21: Royal salute - A reference to a twenty-one gun salute.
  • Number 22: Two fat ducks - The twos resemble ducks. In the days when bingo halls were the bee’s knees. The numbers 2 and 22 would be met with loud quacking from the crowd.
  • Number 23: The Lords my Shepherd - This call originated in Catholic Social clubs. Bingo was often played in churches in the 1950s.
  • Number 24: Two dozen - A dozen is 12, so this one explains itself.
  • Number 25: Duck and dive - One theory of this is that it was borrowed from boxing slang. Then there is the view that the phrase can mean slippery behaviour.
  • Number 26: Pick and Mix - Another rhyming call. In some parts of England, this is still called ‘bed and breakfast’. Traditionally a B&B would cost an average of 2 shillings and 6 pence (or half a crown).
  • Number 27: Gateway to heaven - You got it, it rhymes.
  • Number 28: In a state - As above.
  • Number 29: Rise and shine - Shine simply rhymes with 29.
  • Number 30: Dirty Gertie - As well as rhyming with 30, this call was first used during the Second World War. A female statue called ‘ La Delivrance’ was installed in North London in 1929. With bare breasts, the instalment was considered rather raunchy at the time so it was nicknamed ‘Dirty Gertie’.
  • Number 31: Get up and run - It rhymes.
  • Number 32: Buckle my shoe - Thought to have been taken from a children’s rhyme.
  • Number 33: Dirty knees. Some callers shout ‘fish and chips please’. It’s merely a rhyming call.
  • Number 34: Ask for more - It rhymes.
  • Number 35: Jump and jive - The jump and jive was a dance in the early 1940s. It’s thought to be a variant of earlier swing dances like the jitterbug.
  • Number 36: Three dozen.
  • Number 37: More than 11 - It rhymes.
  • Number 38: Christmas cake - Believed to be cockney rhyming slang.
  • Number 39: 39 Steps. Reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 British thriller ‘The 39 Steps’.
  • Number 40: Life begins - Based on the saying ‘life begins at 40’.
  • Number 41: Time for fun - No known origin, but depending on your accent you could argue it rhymes.
  • Number 42: Winnie the Pooh - It rhymes.
  • Number 43: Down on your knees - This phrase was frequently used by soldiers during the war.
  • Number 44: Droopy drawers - Reference to saggy trousers.
  • Number 45: Halfway there - Halfway to 90
  • Number 46: Up to tricks - It rhymes.
  • Number 47: Four and seven - It rhymes.
  • Number 48: Four dozen.
  • Number 49: PC - This comes from an old BBC Radio show called ‘The Adventures of PC 49’.
  • Number 50: It’s a Bullseye - This one refers to a score in the game of darts.
  • Number 51: Tweak of the thumb - Unknown origin, but it kind of rhymes.
  • Number 52: Danny La Rue - A famous drag entertainer from Ireland.
  • Number 53: Stuck in a tree - It rhymes
  • Number 54: Clean the floor - As above.
  • Number 55: Snakes alive - It rhymes.
  • Number 56: Shotts bus - This one is thought to nod towards the bus which ran between schools in North Lanarkshire and Glasgow.
  • Number 57: Heinz Varieties - Self-explanatory, it is the slogan of Heinz.
  • Number 58: Make them wait - It rhymes.
  • Number 59: Brighton line - Before the telephone system changed, 59 was the first 2 numbers in a dialling code belonging to Brighton. It’s also a quotation from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.
  • Number 60: Five dozen.
  • Number 61: Bakers bun - It rhymes.
  • Number 62: Turn the screw - Sometimes this one is named ‘tickety boo’ which means in good order or great.
  • Number 63: Tickle me 63 - Another rhyming call.
  • Number 64: Red raw - As above
  • Number 65: Old age pension - 65 being the age in Britain at which one can cash his or her pension.
  • Number 66: Clickety click - No known origin
  • Number 67: Stairway to heaven - Believed to have been created by Andrew Lavelle.
  • Number 68: Saving grace - No known origin
  • Number 69: Either way up.
  • Number 70: Three scores and ten.
  • Number 71: Bang on the drum - It rhymes.
  • Number 72: Six dozen.
  • Number 73: Queen bee - It rhymes.
  • Number 74: Hit the floor - It rhymes.
  • Number 75: Strive and strive
  • Number 76: Trombones - We believe that this one comes from the popular musical released in 1957 ‘Music Man’. There was a catchy marching song called ‘’Seventy Six Trombones’
  • Number 77: Sunset strip - Reference to a 1970s TV show.
  • Number 78: Heaven's gate
  • Number 79: One more time
  • Number 80: Eight and blank - Sometimes called ‘eight and nothing’. This has since been adapted to ‘Gandhi's Breakfast’ (get it? ‘ate nothing’)
  • Number 81: Stop and run - It rhymes.
  • Number 82: Straight on through - It rhymes.
  • Number 83: Time for tea - It rhymes. And in parts of England, the main meal of the day is called ‘tea’, because it is eaten at teatime (5-6 pm).
  • Number 84: Seven dozen
  • Number 85: Staying alive - It rhymes and could be a reference to the Bee Gees song ‘Stayin Alive’ in the 1970s.
  • Number 86: Between the sticks - Alludes to the goalkeeper’s position in football.
  • Number 87: Torquay in Devon - It rhymes.
  • Number 88: Two Fat Ladies - Said to resemble 2 fuller ladies.
  • Number 89: Almost there - One away from 90.
  • Number 90: Top of the shop.

How Bingo Calls moved With the Times

How Bingo Calls moved With the Times

With the advancement of technology bringing online bingo to the palm of our hands, a few other changes have since come in.

As a result of more and more Millennials playing bingo, tastes have changed. Bingo platforms have cottoned onto this and began changing some of the calls used today to bring bingo bang up to date.

Here are just some of the latest calls we found on modern bingo sites.

  • Number 6: Little Mix - - It rhymes and is a popular girl group.
  • Number 7: David Beckham - David Beckham’s shirt number.
  • Number 8: Tinder Date - It rhymes.
  • Number 9: Selfie Time - It rhymes.
  • Number 26: Kylie's Lips - Referring to Kylie Jenner's Lip challenge 2016.
  • Number 42: Let’s be Havin’ you - This refers to the time Deliah Smith performed a drunken football chant on TV.
  • Number 48: Tag a Mate - Mate rhymes with eight.
  • Number 83: Gluten-Free - It rhymes.
  • Number 88: Wills and Kate - Sources say the ‘two fat ladies’ call doesn’t sit well with younger players.

Conclusion

So there you have it - each bingo ball number has its own nickname, although they might not be used by every caller.  This can also heavily depend on where you are playing the game, and on the caller’s announcement style.

As you can see, some of the bingo calls have a long history. Whilst others are just a bit of wordplay, sometimes inspired by cockney rhyming slang which is still used today.

Like with anything popular, it’s important for certain aspects of it to evolve and move with the times. Whilst change can be a great thing - we at BingoSites.net would like to see some of the traditional aspects of bingo stay the same, flying the flag for nostalgia!