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 bingo sites UK 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.
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.
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.
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.