The Lingo of Bingo

One of the most appealing things about the game of bingo is the wonderful slang that keeps the punters smiling, as they play away. Most online and free bingo sites have also incorporated a bingo caller.

Cockney rhyming slang is probably at the root of many of the phrases for the different numbers and – clearly – the look of the numbers is another factor when deciding the chosen nomenclature for that particular digit.

For example, ‘Heaven’s Gate’ is 78. This is a perfect example of East End wit: a loverly jubbley bit of Cockney Rhyming slang. Also, giving off a distinct whiff of jellied eels is 59 ‘the Brighton Line’, and 67 – ‘made in heaven’.

‘Two fat ladies’ is 88: it’s pretty self explanatory when you look at it. As is 22: ‘two little ducks’, 7: ‘a little crutch’, 3: ‘a flea’, and so on.

Mixing up the numbers can give you 87: fat lady on crutches, and ‘Wobbley Wobbley’ – which is just another version of two fat ladies.

Some numbers have a more interesting back story.

‘Doctors Orders’ – number 9 – harks back to the army days when medics would dish out ‘pill number 9’ to patients suffering from constipation. Yes: number 9 is a laxative!

Tony’s Den is now Gordon’s Den and is – of course – the number 10 and a reference to the Prime Minister of the day. ‘Dancing Queen’ is 17 and a tribute to those Swedish superstars ABBA whose who famously sang: “You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen…”

God botherers out there will know that when the bingo caller says: ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ he is referring to psalm (and number) 23.

Older readers may even remember the bingo lingo for the number 26. It’s ‘bed and breakfast’ and refers to the traditional price of a British B&B: 2 shillings and 6 pence. 33 is ‘Sherwood Forest – all the ‘trees’, 30 is ‘speed limit’, 50 is bulls eye (from darts).

There are two bits of slang that –although they have stuck – remain to be explained. One is Gandhi’s Breakfast which represents the number 80… We have no reason why that is, possibly another bingo superstition.

The other is the very famous ‘Kelly’s Eye’ – number 1. Does anyone know who Kelly is? Answers on a postcard please.

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