The Secret vocabulary of Bingo Players
If you ask most people Bingo means to them, you’ll see that most will tell you it’s the random rhyming calls, giving the game an intriguing fun element that make up many of the rhymes or idiomatic phrases. For the veteran Bingo player, they know it’s much more than that, but the lingo makes it all a huge heap more fun.
So How Did Bingo Lingo Really Begin?
Did you know that Bingo used to be called “Beano” and the game developed out of the Lo Giuco del Lotto d'Italia? Translated it means "The Clearance of The Lot of Italy", a very popular Italian lottery since 1530. The time that the term Bingo was really born was in 1929 when someone shouted out “Bingo” instead of “Beano” when they won the game. Yeah, we didn’t know that either!
Did you also know that Bingo Lingo is almost as recognizable as cockney slang? We thought not. Bingo lingo comes from slang, popular culture and styles of speech which is based on shared knowledge, understanding and a strong common Bingo group identity.
If you are still scratching your head, you are not yet part of the ‘gang’!
You want to know where all the lingo originated? OK, we will tell you.
During a game of bingo you could see the following phrases, let us explain in detail:
When you hear the caller shout out “two fat ladies”, “doctor’s orders”, “two little ducks” “Tom Mix” or “Burlington Bertie” what does this conjure up in your imagination? An amazing online game? Hardly, but certainly everything else!
Bingo used to be very popular in the military, the British Army and the Navy as far back as the 1800s. They created created many of the well-loved calls, for example, all the army divisions, including “Doctor’s orders” and “6 & 2 to Waterloo” etcetera…? Now starting to see the picture?
The names often include regimental nicknames, references to Naval personnel going on leave, and even pre-decimal coinage. For example, seventy-six has the call "Was she worth it?" which is linked to the cost of a marriage license (probably should be updated right?).
Just for some extra secrets in the bingo world for your next trivia game, the oldest surviving calls date back to the Edwardian era. These are related to the stars, songs and catchphrases most popular with the working -class players at the time. For example, the call for thirty is "Burlington Bertie".
This is definitely a surprise for those of us that thought Bingo was just a game for little old ladies, right?
Bingo calls are an essential part of the game and were used enthusiastically in bingo halls and especially when Bingo became popular in the 1960s. Sadly the bingo halls are gradually ending their fabulous reign but Online Bingo has taken off and presents a wealth of choice to you. This is just one place where you can shout, “Two fat ladies” and not land yourself in trouble. In fact, this is just one place when you say that and you could be making someone’s night.
Today, you can start online versions of the game with "Eyes Down" - a signal for silence and that the game is about to begin.
Here is a glossary of some the wonderful words that will fill your Bingo world with loads of history and colour!
1 Kelly’s eye – All sources suggest it is military slang. It may originate from the outlaw Ned Kelly. Or the music hall song “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?” But neither have anything to do with only one eye.
6 Tom Mix – a cowboy film star from the silent movie era.
9 doctor’s orders / doctor’s joy – number 9 was a laxative pill issued in the army and navy. Supposedly because 9pm was the latest time in the day when a doctor could be seen.
10 Theresa’s den – changes depending upon the Prime Minister at the time. So, has variously been Maggie’s den, Tony’s den etc.
11 legs – looking like a pair of legs.
14 the lawnmower – early lawnmowers had a 14-inch blade.
17 dancing queen – “You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen” – ABBA.
17 old Ireland – could be because St Patrick’s Day is on March 17th. But more likely to be that when Ireland was all one country it was made up of 17 counties.
21 royal salute – referring to a 21-gun salute.
22 two little ducks – the number 2 looks like a duck.
22 dinkie-doo – a dated term for a concert party.
23 The Lord is My Shepherd – the first line of psalm 23.
24 Pompey whore – Sailors nickname for Portsmouth. And who would they go and see as soon as they docked?
26 half a crown / bed and breakfast – both refer to the 2/6 of old money – supposedly the price of one night’s B&B at one time.
28 in a state – ‘two and eight’ is cockney rhyming slang for ‘in a state’.
28 The Old Braggs – the 28th Foot the North Gloucestershire Army Regiment.
30 Dirty Gertie – a 1946 film.
30 Burlington Bertie – a popular music hall song from the early 1900s.
33 Sherwood Forrest – say ‘all the threes’ in an Irish accent….
39 steps – from the John Buchan novel & Alfred Hitchcock film “The Thirty-Nine Steps”.
39 Jack Benny – an American comedian who was big in the 1950s and 60s. His ‘running gag’ was that he was 39 years old.
42 the street in Manhattan – ’42nd Street’ was a 1933 film.
44 droopy drawers – looks like a pair of drawers half way down.
44 Aldershot Ladies – a military term – originally ‘Aldershot whores’. But was cleaned up a little …….
45 cowboy’s friend – a Colt 45 revolver.
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These are just a sample of the many different bingo lingos, explore, enjoy, have fun and most importantly, play responsibly.