Okay, we admit it: we at Aquamaids Bingo LOVE our bingo trivia. Knowing how and where the game started, how it got to us, and some of the unique ways it’s played around the world is a lot of fun for us, and diehard bingo lovers enjoy being able to stump their friends with fun factoids about their favorite game too! This is why we decided to do an ongoing blog series about Bingo Lingo. Whether you want to impress your friends and family, surprise your kids and grandkids or just settle that friendly debate you’ve been having with your best friend’s cousin, we’re proud to present these interesting and exciting facts about bingo!
A Brief History of Bingo
Bingo has traveled a long and winding road from its roots, both in time and space. It was originally played as a lottery game in Italy, with the first known reference dating back to 1530. An imported version quickly became a fashionable pastime amongst the French aristocracy, and soon crossed the English Channel to the modern-day UK.
The first known American version, appearing in 1929, was called “Beano,” and was brought to our shores by a carnival worker. As the name implies, the numbers were marked by placing beans on the card. A traveling salesman who happened by the carnival and saw this quickly realized this could be a big breakthrough in entertainment, debuting an “official” version of Beano not long after. During one of the first public exhibitions, a winning player mistakenly called out “Bingo!” instead of “Beano!” The name caught on, and bingo has been entertaining, delighting, and thrilling players for over 90 years now.
Of course, if you know bingo in the US, you’re used to “B-2, I-17, N-38, G-47, and O-63,” for example. But did you know that in the UK, bingo goes up to 90? Not only that, but UK bingo callers use a series of word substitutions, rhymes, half-rhymes, and descriptions based on Cockney rhyming slang for the calls! So if you find yourself playing bingo across the pond, or you find your bingo game being called by a native Briton who’s used to the UK calling style, you’ll be able to impress your new friends with your facility with their culture from the moment you buy-in!
Bingo Calls 1-7
No one’s really sure why “one” is called “Kelly’s Eye” in bingo. This traditional usage is believed to have been borrowed from the British military in reference to the infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who wore a custom suit of armor whose eyehole looked like the number one. Modern callers may also use “One Direction,” “YOLO (You Only Live Once)” or “Little Jimmy,” the latter referring to British ‘70s pop star Little Jimmy Osmond and his string of Number One hits.
“One little duck” refers to the shape of the number 2, which does look a bit like a waterfowl with a little imagination. Modern callers may also use “Doctor Who,” in reference to the wildly popular British television science-fiction franchise. It’s rumored some callers even take this a step further and say “Patrick Troughton,” the name of the actor who played the second incarnation of the legendary Doctor.
Fancy a nice “cup of tea?” The rhyme here is obvious. You might also hear, “I’m free!” in reference to a catchphrase from the comedy series Are You Being Served? or “Debbie McGee,” wife of British television magician Paul Daniels, from modern callers.
Do you hear a “knock on the door?” Again, like three, the reason this expression was used is clear. Modern callers who also happen to be avid football (soccer) fans may also call “Bobby Moore” in homage to the captain of the 1966 World Cup champion team, who brought the Cup home to England.
“Man alive!” It’s not just something you might gasp to yourself just before yelling “Bingo!” This traditional rhyme has been popular with UK bingo players since the beginning
“Tom Mix,” anyone? No, it’s not an adult beverage. Tom Mix refers to the legendary early Hollywood star with 219 Westerns to his credit. You might also hear “half a dozen,” or for the criminally hip caller, “Little Mix,” referring to a female UK pop group that started life on the UK X-Factor TV show in 2011.
It’s tough to come up with a rhyme for the number “seven,” so they kept this one simple with “Lucky Seven!” You might also hear some younger callers and avid football buffs refer to “David Beckham,” the legendary soccer player whose jersey number with Manchester United was 7.
So there you have it, folks! Your first lesson in international bingo calls is now in the books. Be sure to check back for our next set of calls, and come on down to Aquamaids Bingo Hall on St. Martin Avenue in Santa Clara for all the hot bingo action you’ve been craving! Remember to buy in online or through our iOS and Android apps for your next session, and don’t forget to visit the Aquamaids Café, now with a new and improved menu and accepting credit and debit cards!
It all happens at Aquamaids Bingo, where the winners play!