British Bingo Numbers and Nicknames

Bingo calls are an integral part of the British bingo tradition. They were originally used so that there would not be any confusion about which number had been called in a loud and rowdy bingo hall, but they have since become an important part of the experience. They are so engrained in the bingo culture that most people probably never stop and think about where the funny terms are from, but some of them actually have a really interesting history. Let’s take a look at them now.
A bingo caller with bingo balls.
Published on: 28 August 2019

The Bingo Calls UK

Some of the bingo nicknames are pretty well known, like the “two fat ladies” for number 88. However, there are actually monikers for all ninety numbers and a lot of these are not as commonly known. Many of the nicknames are just words that rhyme with the number (number five – man alive) but others are more descriptive. The number 2, for example, when written out (2) is thought to look a bit like a duck. So, number 2 in bingo is called “one little duck”, and the number 22 is “two little ducks”. You might not hear them when you play online bingo, but you can call them in your head all the same!

Here is the list of traditional bingo calls UK:

  1. Kelly’s Eye
  2. One Little Duck
  3. Cup of Tea
  4. Knock at the Door
  5. Man Alive
  6. Tom Mix
  7. Lucky Seven
  8. Garden Gate
  9. Doctor’s Orders
  10. Theresa’s Den
  11. Legs Eleven
  12. One Dozen
  13. Unlucky for Some
  14. Valentine’s Day
  15. Young and Keen
  16. Sweet Sixteen
  17. Dancing Queen
  18. Coming of Age
  19. Goodbye Teens
  20. One Score
  21. Key to the Door
  22. Two Little Ducks
  23. The Lord is My Shepherd
  24. Two Dozen
  25. Duck and Dive
  26. Pick and Mix
  27. Duck and a Crutch
  28. Over Weight
  29. Rise and Shine
  30. Dirty Genie
  31. Get up and Run
  32. Buckle My Shoe
  33. All the Threes
  34. Ask for More
  35. Jump and Jive
  36. Three Dozen
  37. More than Eleven
  38. Christmas Cake
  39. Steps
  40. Naughty Forty
  41. Time for Fun
  42. Winnie the Pooh
  43. Down on Your Knees
  44. Droopy Drawers
  45. Halfway There
  46. Up to Tricks
  47. Four and Seven
  48. Four Dozen
  49. PC
  50. Half a Century

But What Do They Mean?

Some of the bingo number nicknames are more obvious than others. As we said, a lot of them simply depend on rhyming with the number, so while they don’t always make a huge amount of sense, it is easy to see how people came up with them. Like numbers 2, 22, and 88, there are others that are based on what the actual digit itself looks like. Number 3 is called the “cup of tea” but is also referred to as ears or fleas, due to its shape. Similarly, while number 7 might usually be known as “lucky seven”, it can also be called the crutch. You can find these secondary names when it comes to combining the numbers. So, number 73 is “crutch and a flea” and 27 is “duck and a crutch”.

Number 10 is interesting because its name actually changes over time. Number 10 Downing Street is the British prime minister’s house – also known as the prime minister’s den. Since the current PM is Theresa May, number 10 in bingo in currently “Theresa’s den”. When the prime minister changes, so will this bingo call.

There are some other numbers whose meanings are so obscure that most people don’t have a clue what they mean. Let’s have a look at a few of those:

  • 9. Doctor’s Orders – During World War II, there was a powerful laxative drug used called the number nine pill. Apparently, it got its name because 9pm was the latest that you could see the doctor.
  • 30. Dirty Genie – Again, during World War II, Dirty Gertie from Bizerte was a rather risqué song that many soldiers sang.
  • 39. Steps – The 39 Steps is a film made by Alfred Hitchcock, inspired by the book of the same title by John Buchan.
  • 52. Danny La Rue – Although based on the rhyme more than anything, Danny La Rue was an entertainer and singer in the 1960s and 1970s. He was well-known for cross-dressing during his performances.
  • 56. Was She Worth It – A wedding license used to cost five shillings and sixpence: 5 and 6, hence the number 56. When this number is called, the players shout back, “Every penny!”

The Makeover

Bingo cards and balls.

The majority of the bingo calls were invented in the 1950s. While a lot of them are steeped in tradition and have become a staple part of the game, some have become outdated and unpopular. Some variations have arisen, often showing the changing of the times, or even just regional differences. As more young people become interested in the game, some of the calls were changed to reflect newer pop culture.

In 2003, Butlins invited a professor of pop culture, Charlie Blake, to help update the British bingo calls. He said, “My task was to find reference points from 2003 society and culture – from technology and food through to celebrities and TV – which would have a much greater meaning to the public today.”

Blake’s list still kept a lot of the old bingo calls, since they have become so engrained in the game. It did, however, also change a number of them which were more relevant than their forerunners. Number 8 became Gareth Gates (for the popular Pop Idol contestant), number 10 was replaced with Brad and Jan (for celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston), number 52 changed to chicken vindaloo. Various others were also changed to capture the spirit of 2003 culture.

In 2016, Mecca Bingo decided to give their bingo calls a revamp too, and invited people to make suggestions on social media. Again, these new nicknames showed terms relevant to the current culture. Number 6 became Little Mix, 8 was Tinder Date, and 25 was renamed Adele (following the huge success of her album named 25). You can find out more about the history of bingo here.

Online Bingo

Online bingo has become wildly popular and, unsurprisingly, this new take on the game has also brought in a whole host of new terms. Most bingo sites use a lot of abbreviations. Some of these are standard terms used all over the internet (lol, brb, btw) but others are specific to online bingo. 1TG (one to go), 2TG (two to go), and so on are used as players call out how many numbers they need to win. If there is a big win, the chat will be flooded with WD (well done) and WTG (way to go), or BLNT (better luck next time) for a loss. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the language is changing all the time and there are always CH (chat hosts) on hand to help out if needed. Before you start playing, make sure that you understand the rules of bingo thoroughly.

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