In the UK, Bingo is known for its quirky and comedic slang names for each number that is called. From rhymes, historical references and names based on the shape of the number – the classic British Bingo game has it all!
Incorporating rhyming slang into the game definitely makes the numbers easier to remember. Of the entire 90 digits, more than 50 of them take their names from rhymes. Below is a list of perhaps the most interesting of the selection.
The number 15 has two different nicknames that are often used when calling out the numbers. “Young and Keen” number 15 or 15 “Rugby Team” are the caller’s choices.
Much to the delight of many, a 1976 hit by Abba is regularly used to create rhymes. Entitled “Dancing Queen”, the caller will take the lines “you are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only 17” before announcing the number. An absolute classic, and always guaranteed to get a few smiles from the poised players.
This one is based purely on rhyme, with no real reason attached. The saying quite simply goes “Tweak of the Thumb, 51”. At the caller’s discretion this rhyme occasionally gets changed to “I love my mum, 51”, most likely depending on how much trouble they’re in!
Some numbers make it even easier to come up with slang terms for them. A lot of numbers earned their nicknames purely based on what they look like. As we go through some examples you will start to see the apparent correlation.
Arguably one of the most recognisable of the comparisons, the number 11 is regularly referred to as “Legs 11” for – you guessed it – looking like a pair of legs. When this nickname is announced, it is common in the UK for the patrons of the Bingo hall to cheer and wolf-whistle. However, this practice has become somewhat frowned upon in a lot of places as it’s deemed to be sexist, so it has been known for some Bingo halls to ask people to leave if they choose to react in this way. Go on, we dare you!
The number 80 has one of the more bizarre visual comparisons. Currently, the number is called out as “Eight and Blank”, but previously it had a much stranger name. People used to imagine that the number 80 looked a lot like how the Indian independence movement leader Mahatma Gandhi would look when he would sit cross-legged with his dinner plate in front of him. Yeah…we don’t see it either. Maybe if you squint and tilt your head?
Along a similar line, the call for the number 88 is quite simply “Two Fat Ladies”. Now, we’re sure you can immediately see why people wouldn’t be a fan of that one! The number is named as such because some seem to think that the two 8’s look like a couple of curvy ladies sitting next to each other. It’s a wonder that an 8 on its own isn’t just “one fat lady” but we’ll let them off.
Lastly, we come to the historical – or perhaps topical – nicknames. These mainly take inspiration from people and occurrences from history.
The number 57 has a rather charming origin of its tongue-in-cheek nickname. The Bingo caller announces “Heinz Varieties, 57” when calling this number, referring, of course, to the much-loved baked bean manufacturers. Heinz is broadly known for having boasted 57 varieties of its famous products. Henry Heinz, the founder, decided that 57 was his lucky number so vowed to keep his range of products to that amount. Weird yet wonderful, we like it Henry!
For no real reason other than rhyming purposes, the number 42 was adorned to the classic storybook character Winnie the Pooh. Perhaps one of the most historically loved characters of all and definitely a fan favourite.
There is a gross yet interesting story behind the origin of 9’s “number 9, Doctor’s Orders” Bingo call. This nickname stems from World War II where the military doctors would hand out pills labelled “number nine” to the soldiers who couldn’t be diagnosed with a specific condition. The pill was purely a powerful laxative designed to simply clear the patient’s entire system in the hope that whatever ailment they had would also be flushed out.
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