The Language of The Bingo Numbers

Bingo Numbers

The Language of The Bingo Numbers

If you are a regular player of Bingo, you will know many of the numbers have their own personal nicknames. This can be for a number of reasons, to bring some additional fun and personality to the game as well as confirming a number being drawn in a noisy room.

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But, where did this bingo lingo originate?

The truth is that while most of these bingo terms are known, some others are a little unclear. 

Certainly, the military is responsible for many of the calls. This is no surprise considering that bingo began as a gambling game popular in the early Army and Navy. 

There are many nicknames for the numbers, but here are a few to ponder over:

Kelly’s eye: All sources suggest it is military slang. It may originate from the outlaw Ned Kelly. Or the music hall song “Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?” But neither has anything to do with only one eye.

One little duck: The shape looks a bit like a swan.

One little flea: Looks a bit like a flea.

Tom Mix: a cowboy film star from the silent movie era.

One little crutch: Looks like a crutch.

One fat lady: Resembles the two halves of a large lady.

Doctor’s orders / doctor’s joy: number 9 was a laxative pill issued in the army and navy. Supposedly because 9 pm was the latest time in the day when a doctor could be seen.

10 David’s den: changes depending upon the Prime Minister at the time. So has variously been Maggie’s den, Tony’s den, etc.

11 legs: looking like a pair of legs.

13 Bakers Dozen: Bakers in olden times used to make one extra piece of bread/cookie etc to the dozen ordered by a customer so they could do a taste test before it was sold to the customer, hence the phrase.

17 Dancing queen: “You are the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen” – ABBA.

21 Royal salute: referring to a 21 gun salute.

22 Two little ducks: the number 2 looks like a duck.

28 In a state: ‘two and eight’ is cockney rhyming slang for ‘in a state’.

30 Dirty Gertie: a 1946 film.

39 steps: from the John Buchan novel & Alfred Hitchcock film “The Thirty-Nine Steps”.

42 The street in Manhattan:  ’42nd Street’ was a 1933 film.

44 Droopy drawers: looks like a pair of drawers halfway down.

45 Cowboy’s friend: a Colt 45 revolver.

50 Hawaii five oh:an American 70s police drama.

52 Danny La Rue: a 60s / 70s drag artist.

53 Here comes Herbie: The number on the bonnet of the Walt Disney car.

54 House with a bamboo door: “Number fifty-four, the house with the bamboo door” – Earl Grant.

56 Was she worth it? – 5/6 was supposedly once the price of a marriage license (the same story goes for 7/6).

57 Heinz varieties: ‘Heinz 57 varieties’ is a famous company slogan.

59 The Brighton Line: refers to the London to Brighton bus service. It was either a 59 bus or cost 5/9.

62 Tickety-boo: an army phrase meaning “everything’s alright sir”.

64 The Beatle’s number: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four?” – The Beatles.

65 Old age pension: ‘Pension’ age in the UK is at the age of 65.

77 Sunset Strip: an American TV show from the 50s/60s.

88 Two fat ladies: looking like two ‘wobbly’ fat ladies.

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Poppy Watt