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Bingo Calls – Will the Selfie Queens Push the Two Fat Ladies Aside?

Traditional bingo calls

Bingo has undergone some pretty heavy changes over the years, and probably the most significant of these has been the swing towards playing online. This shift has attracted a whole new generation of players, who have, in turn, brought a more contemporary vibe to the style of the game. In keeping with modern-day lifestyles, the online sessions have the sense of immediacy about them. The tickets can be purchased with just a click, the rounds are held at speed, and the winners are announced instantly.

Understandably, the rise of the bingo websites has encouraged many of the land-based venues to make a few changes of their own. As a result, many of the calls that are used during play have been updated to suit the current market place. The history of many of them has always been a bit of a mystery, and there are often regional differences in the terms that are used. They tend to be either linked to a cultural aspect or to the visual appearance of the numbers. Folklore and superstition have also played their parts in providing the backstories.
Bingo Calls Change to Follow the Trends in Pop Culture

Traditional British Bingo Calls

Probably one of the most British is number 3, which is called as Cup of Tea. Number 50 is Bullseye, as in darts, and 21 is the Key of the Door, which used to be the age of adulthood in the UK. 76 refers to the cost of the marriage licence in old money, and number 2 is One Little Duck because of the shape of the number. Number 4 is Knock at the Door, and number 32 is Buckle My Shoe, which are both references to the popular children’s rhyme. Number 59 is known as the Brighton Line, and this refers to the telephone code used for this region in the past.

Pop Icons Change the Lingo

It’s somehow a little sad to have to admit that a lot of the traditional calls no longer hold quite the same relevance, but this is the reality. Calling out Danny La Rue for 52 would only be confusing for the majority of the audience. Consequently, this has been substituted for chicken vindaloo – something that is, perhaps, more familiar to the younger members than a drag queen from bygone days.

There are several other numbers that have undergone a makeover in recent years. Number 1 used to be Kelly’s Eye, which was believed to be a reference to the outlaw, Ned Kelly, but now has the acronym, YOLO – you only live once. Number 17 is no longer Abba’s Dancing Queen, but has become Selfie Queen, which will appeal to the fans of social media. Number 8’s garden gate became Gareth Gates when the Pop Idol runner-up was topping the charts but is now changed into Tinder Date, which is more in keeping with the modern dating customs.

How far should we go with these modernisations, though? If everything gets changed, won’t we be losing the fabric of the game itself? Traditionally, bingo has been an interactive game, and the call and response aspect is a huge part of the experience. Calling Two Fat Ladies for 88 might be politically incorrect nowadays, but responding with ‘wobble, wobble’ is just a bit of fun. It’s similar with legs eleven, which is under threat because wolf whistling – the customary reply to this number – is now considered to be taboo.

Updating the Bingo Glosarry

To some extent, this desire to modernise was initiated by Butlins. The holiday camp and bingo have always been synonymous with one another, but in 2003, it was decided that the calls needed a transformation. It was a move that was met with a lot of resistance by holidaymakers at the time, but the changes went ahead anyway. Many of the numbers were linked to the popular celebrities of the time. 71 became J-Lo’s Bum, and 32 turned into Jimmy Choo. The websites were quick to catch on to this, and 888ladies added its own spin to the references.

However, many of these newer calls already seem dated. David Beckham has long since retired from football so there seems little point in using his shirt for number 7. Calling Brad and Jen for number 10 is equally as meaningless. They might have been newlyweds at the time the new calls were introduced, but their relationship is now just a distant memory. It won’t be long before some of the other stars mentioned in these revisions – Gareth Gates for 8, Shakira’s Hips for 86, and J-Z for 23 – join Danny La Rue in the land of obscurity.

  1. 1 Kelly’s Eye
  2. 2 One Little Duck
  3. 3 Cup of Tea
  4. 4Knock at the Door
  5. 5Man Alive
  6. 6 Tom Mix
  7. 7 Lucky 7
  8. 8 Garden Gate
  9. 9 Doctor’s Orders
  10. 10 Theresa’s Den
  11. 11 Legs Eleven
  12. 12 One Dozen
  13. 13 Unlucky for Some
  14. 14 The Lawnmower
  15. 15 Young and Keen
  16. 16 Never Been Kissed
  17. 17 Dancing Queen
  18. 18 Coming of Age
  19. 19 Goodbye-Teens
  20. 20 One Score
  21. 21 Key of the Door
  22. 22 Two Little Ducks
  23. 23 The Lord Is My Shepherd
  24. 24 Knock at the Door
  25. 25 Duck and Dive
  26. 26 Two and Six, Half a Crown
  27. 27 Duck and a Crutch
  28. 28 In a state
  29. 29Rise and Shine
  30. 30Brighton Bertie
  1. 31 Get up and Run
  2. 32 Buckle my Shoe
  3. 33 All the Threes
  4. 34 Ask for More
  5. 35Jump and Jive
  6. 36 Three Dozen
  7. 37 More than Eleven
  8. 38 Christmas Cake
  9. 39 Steps
  10. 40 Life Begins
  11. 41 Life’s Begun
  12. 42 Winnie the Pooh
  13. 43 Down on your Knees
  14. 44 Droopy Drawers
  15. 45 Halfway There
  16. 46 Up to Tricks
  17. 47 Four and Seven
  18. 48 Four Dozen
  19. 49 PC (nick nick)
  20. 50 It’s a bullseye! 
  21. 51 Tweak of the Thumb
  22. 52 Danny La Rue
  23. 53 Stuck in the Tree
  24. 54 Man at the Door 
  25. 55 Snakes Alive
  26. 56 Shotts Bus
  27. 57 Heinz Varieties
  28. 58 Make them Wait
  29. 59 Brighton Line
  30. 60 Grandma’s Getting Frisky
  1. 61 Bakers Bun
  2. 62 Tickety-Boo
  3. 63 Tickle Me
  4. 64 Almost Retired
  5. 65 Stop Work
  6. 66 Clickety Click
  7. 67 Stairway to Heaven
  8. 68 Pick a Mate
  9. 69 Anyway up
  10. 70 Three Score & Ten
  11. 71 Bang on the Drum
  12. 72 Six Dozen
  13. 73 Queen Bee
  14. 74 Candy Store
  15. 75 Strive & Strive
  16. 76 Trombones
  17. 77 Two Little Crutches
  18. 78 Heaven’s Gate
  19. 79 One More Time
  20. 80 Gandhi’s Breakfast
  21. 81 Fat Lady with a Walking Stick 
  22. 82 Straight On Through
  23. 83Time for Tea
  24. 84 Seven Dozen
  25. 85 Staying Alive
  26. 86 Between the Sticks
  27. 87 Torquay in Devon
  28. 88 Two Fat Ladies
  29. 89 Nearly There
  30. 90 Top of the Shop

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