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Bingo Lingo: What is it and Where Did it Come From?

There’s an undeniable buzz to bingo. For some, the pace at which our games tick over is appealing. For others, it’s the prizes. We all have our own reasons for enjoying bingo. However, the one thing that we all agree on is the call of the balls.

Even if you’ve never played, you’ll know that bingo is full of weird and wonderful phrases. From rhymes and similes, the language of bingo is extremely rich and diverse. It’s also fun. Every game is given an injection of colour and character thanks to bingo lingo. So, in honour of that, we’ve decided to chart the history of bingo lingo and call out some of the most memorable phrases.

The History of Bingo Calls

The exact origins of today’s bingo lingo aren’t clearly defined. This is mainly because calls can be as individual as the people uttering them. However, we can trace the culture of calls back to World War II. British servicemen would play Housey Housey during their downtime. It’s believed that calls were used as a way to make the games more entertaining.

Indeed, many of the original phrases were nicknames and bawdy in-jokes. When the war ended, bingo remained popular in the UK and, throughout the 1950s, the trend of adding rhymes to certain numbers caught on. Fast-forward to today and bingo calls are an integral part of every game, regardless of whether it’s in a live venue or our online bingo rooms. 

The Most Popular Bingo Calls

There are calls for almost every number in bingo. However, there are some that stick in the mind more than others. Some of the most popular bingo phrases you’ll hear echoing around the Buzz Bingo studio are:

Number 1: Kelly’s Eye – This is thought to be a military pun that refers to the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly who wore a helmet and bulletproof vest during his final shootout.  

Number 8: Garden Gate – This is one of the many phrases used in bingo because it rhymes.

Number 11: Legs Eleven – Players often wolf whistle in response to this call because the number looks like a slender pair of legs.

Number 16: Never Been Kissed – This call refers to the song Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed.

Number 22: Two Little Ducks – What does 22 look like? Well, if you’re a bingo player, it looks like two ducks (quack, quack).

Number 40: Life Begins – They say that life begins at 40, which is where this call comes from.

Number 66: Clickety-Click – No, this isn’t a reference to trains on a train track. It’s called as clickety-click because it rhymes (sort of) with 66.

Number 77: Sunset Strip – This call makes reference to the 1960s TV show 77 Sunset Strip.

Number 88: Two Fat Ladies – Apologies to anyone that’s a little rotund but 88 looks like two fat women (or men).

Number 90: Top of the Shop – This one is easy to guess. We call 90 top of the shop because it’s the highest number in bingo.

So, that’s about it. We haven’t covered every call but those are some of the best. If you want to hear more great phrases like these, create an account at Buzz Bingo and listen for the call of the balls in any of our top-class games.

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