Anyone who has entered a traditional bingo hall in the United Kingdom has heard the announcer following up numbers with fun nicknames. The announcer might talk about a duck or suggest the audience have a cup of tea, while the players mark their boards and sometimes call back. These rhymes originated in the mid-20th century in East London, where people used rhymes to communicate hidden messages. These rhymes quickly moved into bingo halls as a way to clarify all 90 numbers on the board. From far away, 42 and 52, for example, can sound the same, so these nicknames served as a way to tell the two numbers apart.
As bingo nicknames spread outside London, they took on more regional meanings, and some callers added pop culture references. Below is a complete list of numbers and their nicknames, followed by an analysis of some of the numbers and how their names differ by caller and region.
The Complete list of Bingo Calls
- Kelly’s Eye
- One Little Duck
- Cup of Tea
- Knock at the Door
- Man Alive
- Tom Mix
- Lucky Seven
- Garden Gate
- Doctor’s Orders
- Cameron’s Den
- Legs 11
- One Dozen
- Unlucky for Some
- Valentine’s Day
- Young and Keen
- Sweet 16
- Dancing Queen
- Coming of Age
- Goodbye Teens
- One Score
- Royal Salute
- Two Little Ducks
- Thee and Me
- Two Dozen
- Duck and Dive
- Pick and Mix
- Gateway to Heaven
- Over Weight
- Rise and Shine
- Dirty Gertie
- Get Up and Run
- Buckle My Shoe
- Dirty Knee
- Ask for More
- Jump and Jive
- Three Dozen
- More than 11
- Christmas Cake
- Naughty 40
- Time for Fun
- Winnie the Pooh
- Down on Your Knees
- Droopy Drawers
- Halfway There
- Up to Tricks
- Four and Seven
- Four Dozen
- Half a Century
- Tweak of the Thumb
- Danny La Rue
- Stuck in the Tree
- Clean the Floor
- Snakes Alive
- Was She Worth It?
- Heinz Varieties
- Make Them Wait
- Brighton Line
- Five Dozen
- Bakers Bun
- Turn the Screw
- Tickle Me 63
- Red Raw
- Old Age Pension
- Clickety Click
- Made in Heaven
- Saving Grace
- Either Way Up
- Three Score and 10
- Bang on the Drum
- Six Dozen
- Queen B
- Candy Store
- Strive and Strive
- Sunset Strip
- Heaven’s Gate
- One More Time
- Eight and Blank
- Stop and Run
- Straight On Through
- Time for Tea
- Seven Dozen
- Staying Alive
- Between the Sticks
- Torquay in Devon
- Two Fat Ladies
- Nearly There
- Top of the Shop
Bingo Calls Based on RymesOf the 90 total bingo calls, more than 50 take their names from rhymes with their numbers. If you can’t remember a particular number of a nickname, you can create your own by forming a rhyme. In fact, as bingo nicknames change locally, one of the main causes is tweaking the rhymes and making them region specific.
A few rhyming numbers stick about because they have interesting cultural or visual references that lead to the nickname. Below are a few of the most interesting ones, many of which have regional alternatives depending on the caller’s personal preference.
8. Garden GateBased on the hidden message origins of U.K. rhymes, the “garden gate” is possibly a reference to a meeting place or drop-off point for smugglers and gang members.
15. Young and KeenFor a different rhyme, you can use the nickname “rugby team,” for the number of players involved in the sport.
17. Dancing QueenBased off the 1976 hit by Abba, this number gets its name from the opening lines of the song “Dancing Queen”: “You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only 17.”
26. Pick and MixThe number 26 is also called “bed-and-breakfast” because of the traditional cost, two shillings and sixpence — otherwise known as “half a crown.”
51. Tweak of the ThumbDepending on the region and bingo caller, this nickname might be replaced with “I love my mum.”
52. Danny La RueSome audiences prefer the nickname “weeks in a year,” but Danny La Rue is a more modern pop culture reference, based on the Irish singer known for his cross-dressing.
62. Turn the ScrewSome Brits say “tickety boo,” English slang for “good” or “in order.
Calls Based on The Number's ShapeIf you’re not sure of the rhyme, some numbers make it possible to remember the nickname through their shapes. The number two looks like a duck, providing the nickname “one little duck” as an alternative call. The number five appears to be a snake, so the number 55 is “snakes alive” because the figure combines the shape with the rhyme.
Anything with the number eight can refer to a fat lady. Finally, the number seven looks like a crutch, so when the number 27 isn’t called as “gateway to heaven,” it’s “duck with a crutch” to pair the two look-alikes together.
Below are a few more numbers that use appearance to derive a nickname.
11. Legs 11This number is easy to remember because the two ones look like a pair of legs. Historically, patrons would shout a wolf whistle when this number was heard, but some bingo halls view the practice as sexist. Some patrons have been kicked out from bingo halls if they utter a wolf whistle.
22. Two Little DucksThe ducks return for number 22, and the numeral is often called “quack quack” as slang. Some circles have dubbed this number “Bishop Desmond,” in honour of South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu.
25. Duck and DIVEThis one is easy to remember: While the duck in the number two is cute, you want to dive out of the way of the snake in the number five. This number is also a convenient rhyme.
44. Droopy DrawersAlong with number 11, a droopy drawers visualisation always elicits a few giggles from the crowd of bingo players in the hall.
69. Either Way UpAlso known as “the same both ways,” each numeral of 69 can be flipped upside down and look exactly the same as its opposite.
72. Six DozenIf the number 27 is “a duck and a crutch,” then your caller might call “72 a crutch and a duck.”
77. Double Hockey SticksIf the number seven is lucky, then the number 77 has double the luck. Some callers might use the term “double sevens,” “lucky sevens,” or “two little crutches” for a visual nickname.
80. Eight and BlankWhile the number eight and a blank (or zero) is easier to understand, this call used to be known as “Gandhi’s breakfast”. People imagined that the appearance of the number is what Indian independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi would look like if he sat cross-legged with a plate in front of him.
82. Straight on ThroughThe number eight also provides a reference to curvy women, which means 82 is alternatively nicknamed “fat lady with a duck,” playing off the imagery with the number two.
88. Two Fat LadiesThis is another image-based number, where the curves of the eights look like two large ladies sitting next to each other.
Historical References in Bingo CallsThe bulk of the historical references in nicknames come from the 1950s and ’60s. During this period, bingo began to reach its peak popularity, and many of the nicknames formed in these years have stuck around for decades. However, some people are calling for modern updates to the nicknames to make them more relevant to today’s players and appeal to younger generations.
The easiest way to broaden the appeal is to pick traditionally rhyming numbers and assign pop culture references to them. For example, the number 32 would be called “Jimmy Choo” instead of “buckle my shoe,” 84 could be “Dumbledore,” and 42 “Winnie the Pooh” could be rebranded as “Pikachu,” the Pokémon character.
Several top historical references can be found in bingo call nicknames. Check out the ones below to see which nicknames you already knew and which ones you think could be updated for contemporary audiences.
1. Kelly's EyeMost people believe this number is a reference to Ned Kelly, one of Australia’s greatest folk heroes. Others claim this phrase is simply military slang.
9. Doctor's OrdersThis call stems from World War II, where British doctors handed out the number nine pill to soldiers that weren’t diagnosed with a specific condition. This powerful laxative was meant to clear the system of ills.
10. Cameron's DenWhile this number is a rhyme, the nickname changes each time a new prime minister is elected. Currently, the number 10 is also known as “David’s den,” after David Cameron, but the number has also been called “Tony’s den” for Tony Blair and “Maggie’s den” for Margaret Thatcher.
21. Royal SaluteThis number refers to the 21-gun salute presented at royal and military ceremonies.
30. Dirty GertieWhat rhymes with 30? Try “Dirty Gertie From Bizerte,” a humorous song belted out by soldiers during World War II.
39. Steps“The 39 Steps” was a famous movie by Alfred Hitchcock that debuted in 1935. The film is still popular today.
42. Winnie The PoohThis rhyme comes from the stories of the honey-loving storybook bear and his adventures by A. A. Milne. The Walt Disney franchise picked up the story in 1965.
49. PcThis call is based on the show “The Adventures of P.C. 49,” which aired from 1946–53. The show’s plot tells the stories of an unconventional police constable solving cases in London. Some bingo halls actually use the term “police constable” when making the call. Alternatively, callers may use the phrase “one more time” to rhyme with 49.
56. Was She Worth It?During the 1950s, the cost of a marriage license was five shillings and sixpence. Women players have traditionally shouted back “every penny!” in response to the call.
57. Heinz VarietiesHeinz is known for having 57 varieties of canned beans. Even though the company actually sells more products, the founder, Henry Heinz, decided that 57 was his lucky number and stuck with this figure.
59. Brighton Line
A person can travel 59 minutes by train from Brighton to London. Hence, the Brighton Line is 59.
76. TrombonesThis call takes its cue from the 1972 hit movie and musical “The Music Man.” “Seventy-six trombones led the big parade” is a phrase that forms part of the lyrics.
87. Torquay in DevonThis simple rhyme takes its origins from the town of Torquay, a seaside resort town in Devon, in the southwest region of England.
Classic Calla in Bingo CallsAlong with the numbers that resemble animals and objects, bingo callers hit certain milestones during the game that they can use instead of traditional nicknames. The first option is counting the dozens. The number 12 is “one dozen,” 24 is “two dozen,” and on up until “seven dozen” at the number 84. If you can easily calculate your multiples of 12, then you never have to worry about remembering these numbers.
Below are a few other milestones that you will reach during your journey through the bingo game. These figures should be easy to remember as long as you can count to 90.
7. Lucky SevenSeven has been traditionally considered a lucky number, which is why the figure sticks when used as a bingo call.
13. Unlucky for SomeIf seven is a lucky number, then 13 can be considered unlucky. Some hotels and airlines even skip the 13th floor or rows to avoid any perceived bad luck associated with that number.
14. Valentines DayThis little reminder to the gentlemen in the audience highlights the fact that Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14.
16. Sweet 16The “Sweet 16″ is one of the most significant birthdays for teenage girls, similar to a quinceñera. This number celebrates that special milestone and sets the stage for other “milestone ages” during the rest of the teen years.
18. Coming of AgeThis age denotes when teens are considered adults. An alternative bingo-call nickname for this age is “now you can vote.”
19. Goodbye TeensAfter you hit your “Sweet 16″ and come of age at 18, you say goodbye to your teenage years before entering your 20s at age 19. This age is the last age reference in bingo calls until you reach the retirement numbers.
20. One ScoreScore is an old word for the number 20, as referenced in Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”: “Four score and seven years ago.” Like the dozens, callers can refer to scores every 20 numbers, with “two score” for 40, “three score” for 60, and so on.
24. Two DozenIf you don’t like the dozens, callers can also refer to this number as “did you score?”
45. Halfway ThereBingo numbers reach 90, so the number 45 represents the halfway mark.
50. Half a CenturyAlternative names for this number are “Snow White’s number” because of the song, “Heigh-Ho (Five-O) It’s Off to Work We Go” or “Hawaii Five-0″ for Americans.
65. Old Age PensionThis age represents the traditional age when people retire and start collecting their pensions. The bingo caller might also say “stop work” or “time to retire.”
89. Nearly ThereThe bingo caller can also refer to the numeral 89 as “all but one,” because the numeral is only one number away from 90.
90. Top of the ShopThis nickname honours the last number in the bingo roll call. Some bingo callers might say “the end of the line,” or “as far as we go.”
Moving Bingo Calls OnlineWhile the rise of bingo in pubs and coffee shops around the U.K. contributes to the modernization of nicknames, the internet era also works to spread them. When players log on to play online bingo, they’re able to chat with people across the U.K. and in other countries. This connection keeps the nicknames alive as people use them and allows users to share their regional calls and compare notes over who has the funniest and most original nicknames. With the help of the internet, more bingo nicknames than ever are spreading across Great Britain.
All of these nicknames work to create a sense of community in the bingo world. People not only compete against each other, but they also have a fun time throwing out different calls and joking around with certain numbers. Whether you’re playing online, in a bar, or at a bingo hall, you’re surrounded by people who laugh at the same jokes and are working to achieve the same goal. This friendship is what makes bingo one of the top gambling in games in the U.K., if not the world.