Bingo is a game everybody loves – and just about everyone knows its most popular phrases.
Whether it is the Queen playing with the Royal family at Sandringham over Christmas, Robbie Williams calling the balls with Gary Barlow and friends, or a group of pensioners
visiting the local bingo hall on a Saturday night, they all know they’re legs eleven from a garden gate.
The terms have become as well-liked as the game itself. In fact, they’ve worked themselves firmly into the British language.
Many use historical references or rhyming slang from the mid-20th century, when bingo really took off, especially in bustling halls around London.
Bingo terminology is witty, fun, cheeky and entertaining. But most importantly, anybody who wants to stay on the ball – whether they play online bingo at Paddy Power at a local venue, should be well-versed in the common phrases used for each number in a game of bingo.
Here’s a guide to the most well-known and loved phrases.
Legs eleven is called when the number 11 ball appears. Why? Because a number 11 resembles a pair of long slender legs, of course. Audiences often accompany this number with saucy wolf whistles.
Two fat ladies
This mischievous label is given to the number 88. Bingo phrases often draw similarities between the shapes of the number and certain images. In this case, two overweight women sitting next to each other.
One of the more simple bingo phrases, lucky seven is shouted by the caller when the seven ball drops. Seven is believed to be lucky in all walks of life.
Unlucky for some
‘Unlucky for some, it’s number 13’. It’s a phrase that brings joy and heaps of cash to some playing bingo and disappointment to others. Everyone knows 13 is an unlucky number. Or is it?
This phrase usually accompanies the number 66. The caller will say ‘clickety click, 66’. It’s origins are unclear, but it has its roots in rhyming slang.
One bingo number that definitely derives from Cockney rhyming slang is 88. Garden gate rhymes with 88, so it is also used for this in bingo. Rhyming slang originates from east London, and was used as a covert language that the authorities could not understand – but found its way into bingo halls because many people from that time and era played bingo.
This one isn’t as obvious as others, but it is just as well-known by those who play the game. Kelly’s Eye often refers to the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who had only one eye. Another suggestion is that it derived from the military as bingo was the only gambling they were allowed to take part in. Other phrases for number one are ‘At the beginning’, ‘Nelson’s Column’, ‘Buttered scone’ and ‘Little Jimmy’.
Knock at the door
Knock at the door, number four. A quick and easy piece of rhyming slang, this is used by the caller for number four.
A slightly more obscure historical reference, doctors orders means number nine. This was because during World War II, Number 9 was a laxative handed out by medics.
This really does give away the age and origins of bingo slang. Not only does this phrase use rhyming slang for 30, it is a reference to a statue called ‘La Délivrance’ of a naked lady called that was installed in north London in 1927 by the French sculptor Émile Oscar Guillaume.