Those with years of experience playing bingo down at their local hall will already be familiar with the multitude of unusual rhymes and descriptions assigned to the numbers featured in the game. For everybody else, the bingo lexicon can be nothing short of bewildering! Whenever I’m interrupted during a round of online bingo by a friend calling at the door, they are sure to ask about the quirky rhymes and random numbers as they continuously stream from the speakers of my computer.
In this article, we’ll not only list the most modern and funny calls assigned to all 90 of the numbers used in UK-style bingo, but we’ll also dig into the reasons and history behind them as well: In short, this is everything you ever wanted to know about British bingo calls.
the military origins of bingo calls
Many of the calls used in bingo halls and online bingo sitestoday date back centuries, making it a little tricky to determine the origins of some of the more obscure references. One popular theory amongst bingo players is that the game was first played by soldiers and seamen during their downtime, which would explain the large number of military references included in the list of the most popular calls. This view is further supported by the fact that we know with certainty that, by the turn of the 20th century, bingo was a common pastime among members of all wings of the British armed forces.
That being said, many of the best-known military calls have since been replaced with more modern equivalents by many bingo halls and websites. For example, unless you’re playing bingo at your local Foreign Legion, you’ll probably not hear ‘Lowland Division… Number 52!” nowadays! Instead, the number has been re-assigned to the popular entertainer Danny La Rue. So the game's origins may lie with the armed forces, but we’ll have to dig a little deeper to discover more about the origins of today’s most popular bingo calls!
Here's a small selection of the most well-known military bingo calls
“Kelly’s Eye… Number 1”: A reference to legendary Australian Bush Ranger Ned Kelly and his helmets famous single eye slot
“Man Alive… Number 5”: This should need little explanation… the standard military verbiage used when finding a breathing wounded soldier is ‘man alive’!
“Doctors Orders – Number 9”: Number nine was a laxative bill given out by army doctors in WW2. Back then, most doctors firmly believed that clearing out your insides was a surefire fix to the majority of ailments…. Medicine sure has come a long way!
“Royal Salute… Number 21”: The famous 21-gun salute common for military events & royal gatherings
“Lads on tour… 24”: Support your boys!
“26 Trombones”: 26 Trombones is a popular marching song from the musical ‘The Music Man'
“Dirty Girtie… Number 30: Used as a nickname for the statue La Deliverance installed in North London in 1927. Dirty Gertie, from Bizerte, was a song sung by Allied Soldiers during World War 2.
“The Highland Division… Number 51”: This simply refers to the corresponding army division.
“The Lowland Division… Number 52”: As does this one – not very imaginative, is it?
“The Welsh Division… Number 53!”: And another one that relates directly to an army unit
funny & naughty bingo calls
Bingo is a mature pastime created for us older folk, so there’s no reason we can’t have a few funny, naughty, or raunchy calls in amongst the selection, is there? In fact, if the official caller opts for a different type of call – perhaps a traditional or military-based one – don’t be surprised to find other players at your table repeating the slightly more… salacious alternatives!
“Getting Plenty... Why stop at 20!”
“Ask her for more… Number 34”
“Time for some fun… 41”
“Was she worth it?... Number 56”
“Make him wait… 58”
“Grandma’s Getting Frisky!... 60!”
“A meal for two … 69!”
“Bang on the Drum…. J Lo’s Bum! Oh, and 71!”
“Grandma in Heaven…. 87!”
historical & Religious bingo calls
With a game as old as bingo, it’s not surprising that we have a few extremely old and religiously inspired calls amongst the bunch. Here are a few of the best that we were able to compile from a multitude of sources:
“Treat ‘em mean…. Keep em Keen!: And that’s Number 19”
“Heinz Varieties… Number 57”: If any bingo call is desperate for an update, it would surely be this one – can you imagine how many varieties of Heinz tins are on the shelves today?
“Three Score & Ten… Number 70”: A reference to what was thought to be the limit to the lifespan of a human in ancient times and was recorded in the bible as such.
“The Lord is My Shephard – Number 23”: Refers to Psalm 23 of the Old Testament.
popular culture & hollywood calls
Most of us have little experience with military life, so it’s not surprising that some of the more obscure military-based calls have since been replaced with alternatives that can be more easily understood by your average man (or woman!) in the street. A few examples include 53 – commonly referred to as “Here comes Herbie!”, a famous from a Walt Disney movie that always had the number 53 painted on its bonnet. The number 49 is typically referred to as “PC49”, a wartime radio show that followed the work of Police Constable Archie Berkely-Willoughby between 1946 and 1953.
There are some contemporary examples of this, too – the aforementioned Danny La Rue (number 52) was an Irish singer and entertainer best known for his on-stage drag persona, and he only passed away as recently as 2009. The number 39 is most often assigned to Jack Benny, an American entertainer who progressed from playing the violin to being one of the leading 20th-century entertainers in radio, television, and film.
“Trombones – 76”: Refers to the popular marching song from the musical ‘The Music Man.’
“Never been kissed… sweet 16”: A dual reference to both the song Sweet 16 and the movie Never Been Kissed.
“39 Steps… Number 39”: Invokes a popular Hitchcock movie from the 1930s.
“PC… 49!”: A reference to the popular TV show ‘The Adventures of PC49’, which aired in the 1950s.
“Brighton Line…. 59”: This is actually a quote from ‘The Importance of Being Earnest”, a play by Oscar Wild referencing Train 59.
dirty & rude bingo calls
What’s humour without some dirty and rude bingo calls? Adults sure enjoy a naughty and kinky sense of humour, so don’t be surprised if your fellow bingo players make offensive bingo calls! Note that there’s a little bit of cross-over here with the funny.
“Sexy Kate… Number 8!”
“Treat em mean…. Keep em Keen! And that’s Number 19”
“I've been getting plenty… Number 20!”
“Adult’s fun…. 21”
“Did ya score? – 24!”
“She’s a filthy whore!... 34. Now, If you’ll excuse me….”
“She was so tight; I was in heaven! – 37!”
“I’ve banged your mum… 41!” [I’d be careful who’s in the audience with that one!]
“Down on your knees!... 43!”
“Down on all fours… all the fours (44)!”
“I’ve screwed ya’ best mate… 48!”
“Kinky Tricks… 66!”
“Your Place or Mine? For that 69!”
rhyming slang bingo calls
During the later years of the 20th century, it was common for many bingo halls – particularly those located in the South of England – to use Cockney rhyming slang to refer to many of the numbers used in the game. Examples of this phenomenon include ‘young and keen’ – rhymes with fifteen – ‘duck and dive’ – for twenty-five – and ‘buckle my shoe’ (32). A large number of these calls have since spread to other parts of the country and are now frequently used at bingo halls throughout the UK.
These calls need little explanation – each one rhymes with the corresponding number. Not all of them are ‘Cockney’ slang, but it’s always nice when a bingo call rhymes!
“Cup of Tea… 3”
“Knock at the door… 4”.
“Man Alive… 5”
“[Current Prime Ministers Den] … 10”
“Young and Keen… 15”
“Keep ‘em Keen – 19”.
“Duck & Dive… 25”.
“Pick and Mix… 26”
“Rise & Shine… 29”.
“Get Up & Run… 31”.
“Jump & Jive… 35”.
“Grandma’s gone to heaven… 87.”
mecca bingo's 21st century calls
All of this isn’t to say that bingo and its calls are stuck in the past – indeed, many bingo callers will frequently improvise new calls from day to day, mixing them in with the more traditional and well-known references to make the game a little more entertaining. For example, Mecca Bingo – one of the largest operators of bingo halls and online bingo in the United Kingdom – decided to update many of the bingo calls used by their properties just a couple of years ago. Visit one of their locations today, and you’re much more likely to hear the number 8 referred to as ‘Tinder date’ rather than a ‘garden gate’, whilst 17 could now be a ‘selfie queen’ rather than a ‘dancing queen’! Is this blasphemy? I’ll leave it up to you to decide!
“Just Begun… 1”.
“Emoji Poo… Two”.
“Knock at the door… 4”
“Little Mix… 6”.
“Harambe in Heaven… 7”
“Out of wine… 9”.
“Cheaper by the dozen… 12”
“Yass Queen… 13”
“Keep ‘em Keen – 19”
“Lads on Tour… 24
“Lads on tour… 24”
“Facebook Live…. 25”
“Tagged in pics… 36”
“Eat me free… 43”.
“Binge on Netflix… 56”
“Wait for a mate… 58”.
the full list of UK bingo calls
One Little Duck
Cup of Tea
Knock at the Door
Unlucky for Some
Young and Keen
Coming of Age
Key of the Door
Two Little Ducks
Thee and Me
Duck and Dive
Pick and Mix
Gateway to Heaven
In a State
Rise and Shine
Get up and Run
Buckle my Shoe
Ask for More
Jump and Jive
More than Eleven
Time for Fun
Winnie the Pooh
Down on your Knees
Up to Tricks
Four and Seven
Half a Century
Tweak of Thumb
Danny La Rue
Stuck in a Tree
Clean the Floor
Was she Worth it?
Make Them Wait
Turn on the Screw
Old Age Pension
Stairway to Heaven
Either Way Up
Three Score and Ten
Bang on the Drum
Strive and Strive
One more Time
Eight and Blank
Stop and Run
Straight on Through
Time for Tea
Between the Sticks
Torquay in Devon
Two Fat Ladies
Top of the Shop
bingo calls conclusion
Let's face it, bingo is a great game, but without the wordplay that's involved with the numbers, it would undoubtedly be less entertaining. Luckily, the terminology involved is always going to change with the current times and trends, so why you will always have your firm favourites if you are an older player, there will always be more modern references making their way into bingo vocabulary if you are a younger player of the much-loved game.
Article by Chris Howlett
Chris has over 11 years of experience playing and writing about bingo and online slots.