Playing Bingo

Bingo Number Names History And Meanings Part 3: Calls 46 - 90

Part three of Dr Carolyn Downs' history of bingo number calls, their importance and their origins.

Author: Carolyn Downs

The Calls - Part 2

This list is by no means conclusive; bingo calls vary between towns, between settings and between callers; similarly, some that appear to be either rhymes or visual puns may have other meanings too, that have not yet been tracked down.

46. Up to Tricks.

A simple rhyme.

47. Four and Seven.

48. Four dozen

49. Rise and Shine, PC 49, Copper, Nick-Nick.

‘PC 49’ is taken from the popular radio show that was broadcast by the BBC from 1947 to 1953: ‘Incidents in the career of Police Constable Archibald Berkeley-Willoughby’. This call, unlike the call for 22, ‘PC Parker’ has evolved over time to become ‘Copper’, and later to borrow the working class comedian Jim Davidson’s catch phrase ‘Nick Nick’ (c.1977).

50. Blind fifty.

Bull’s Eye (on a dart board).

51. The Highland Div[ision], Tweak of the Thumb, I Love My Mum.

The 51st Highland Division was a first line division of the territorial force, formed in 1908. They saw continuous front-line action during the First World War. [1] The other two calls here are rhymes.

52. The Lowland Div[ision], Danny La Rue, Weeks of the Year.

The 52nd were a Territorial Army division and saw action in the first and second world wars. Danny La Rue became famous in the early 1960s as a glamorous drag artist and entertainer, especially on the BBC television programme ‘The Good Old Days’.

53. The Welsh Div[ision], Stuck in the Tree.

The 53rd were a Territorial Army division and saw action in the First and Second World Wars.

54. Clean the Floor.

A simple rhyme.

55. All the fives, Snakes Alive.

Snakes Alive was a phrase used in American comic strips of the inter-war and immediate post-war era, including in Little Orphan Annie.

56. Five and Six.

57. Heinz Varieties, All the Beans, Heinz.

Heinz canned products have been available in Britain throughout the twentieth century. The ‘Heinz 57 Varieties’ slogan was first used in 1896. The origin of the slogan was an advertisement for ‘21 styles of shoes’. Henry John Heinz thought he could adopt a similar slogan but that his own products were varieties. The number 57 does not relate to the number of products made by the company, which was greater than 57 even in 1896, but rather to the significance of the 5 and 7 to Henry Heinz and his wife. [2]

58. Make them Wait.

A simple rhyme.

59. The Brighton Line.

This call also survives, although seemingly only in the south of England. It was heard in Folkestone and Margate during July 2002. The call has Royal Navy origins: The LBSG fare from Portsmouth to London was 5/9.

60. Blind sixty, Three Score.

61. Baker’s Bun.

A simple rhyme.

62. Turn of the Screw, Tickety-boo, To Waterloo.

‘To Waterloo’ is a Royal Navy call; the LSW fare from Portsmouth to London was 6/2. Tickety-boo is army slang for something being satisfactory, and was first recorded in 1939. [3] ‘Turn of the Screw’ was a popular novella first published in 1898.

63. Tickle Me.

A simple rhyme.

64. Red Raw, When I’m Sixty-Four, The Beatles Number.

Red Raw is one of the many rhyming calls with no particular origin; the other two calls have origins in the 1960s, with the song ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ released by The Beatles in 1967.

65. Old Age Pension, Stop Work.

The Contributory Pensions Act (1925) introduced a 10s per week pension for manual workers and those earning up to £250 per year.

66. Clickety-click, All the sixes, Clickety Click

This is onomatopoeic – sounding like sixty six and has become shorthand for bingo, and was used in the famous Monty Python sketch that parodied ideas of Britishness. In the sketch Russian and Chinese characters famously confused cricket with the clickety-click used in bingo; the characters assumed that all the British played both cricket and bingo; the joke lies in the failure to understand the class distinctions that ran through the various games of cricket, bridge and bingo.

67. Made in Heaven.

A simple rhyme.

68. Saving Grace.

This could be linked to the hymn Amazing Grace: it seems unlikely to be linked to the novel of that title as it was published in 1981 and was not a huge popular success. Although the novel was adapted as a film and had some success it does not seem the most likely source for the call which appears in sources from the 1950s.

69. Whichever way you look at it (see number six), Meal for Two, Your place or mine?

‘Meal for Two’ appears to refer to the introduction of Chinese takeaway meals in Britain, where orders were often placed simply using the numbers on the menu boards. ‘Your place or mine’ has sexual connotations. ‘Whichever way you look at it’ refers to the fact that the numbers appear the same both ways up.

70. Three Score and Ten.

A numerical call, a score is 20, so 3 score and 10 = 70.

71. Bang on a Drum.

A simple rhyme.

72. Par for the Course.

A surprisingly middle-class entrant into the calls, referring to the game of golf; although of course in popular idiom the phase is used in response to ‘how are you?’ to mean that you are ‘OK’ and it may have moved into bingo from this route rather than from golf.

73. Queen Bee.

A simple rhyme.

74. Candy Store.

A simple rhyme.

75. Strive & Strive, Big Daddy, On the Skive.

Big Daddy was a professional wrestler, (Shirley Crabtree 1930-1997) who had a popular following amongst women as well as men; however, the link to the number 75 is not clear. However, the call might also come from the states where the numbers used are 1-75, rather than 1-90 as in the UK, making 75 the highest number, although in the States this number is more commonly called Granddaddy of Bingo. The other calls for this number are simple rhymes.

76. Was she worth it? Was she? Trombones.

‘Was she worth it?’ This call again relates to pre-decimal coinage and is still in use. The phrase has been reputed as having one of two meanings; either the cost of a good night out with a girl (cinema, fish and chip supper and bed and breakfast) or the cost of a marriage licence.

77. Sunset Strip, All the sevens.

‘77 Sunset Strip’ was an American detective show, made between 1958 and 1964 by Warner Brothers. It was broadcast in the UK in the early 1960s as prime time entertainment on ATV, following ‘Saturday Night at the London Palladium’ in 1962 and 1963.

78. Heaven’s Gate.

A simple rhyme.

79. One more time.

A simple rhyme.

80. Blind Eighty.

81. Stop and Run.

A simple rhyme.

82. Straight on Through.

Another call linked to rail travel, express trains would go ‘straight on through’ smaller stations.

83. Time for Tea.

A simple rhyme.

84. Seven Dozen

85. Staying Alive.

This was a hit song for the Bee Gees (1977), from the film Saturday Night Fever.

86. Between the Sticks.

This phrase is borrowed from football terminology for goalkeepers.

87. Torquay in Devon.

A simple rhyme.

88. Two Fat Ladies, Connaught Rangers, All the Eights.

The Connaught Rangers are the 88th Regiment of Foot, while ‘Two Fat Ladies’ is a visual pun, borrowed from bingo for a popular BBC television-cooking programme featuring Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson first broadcast in 1997.

89. Nearly There.

90. Top of the house, As Far as We Go, End of the Line.

The significance of the railways in the lives of the player, both in the military and civilians after the war is clear. Five calls use railway terms, or in the case of ‘As far as we go', bus and rail.

Conclusions.

Although calls have now largely disappeared, especially from commercial cash bingo, even the modern, automated game still starts with the traditional, ‘Eyes Down’; a signal for silence to descend over the players, while games run at amusement arcades and for charity often make use of the traditional calls, considering them to be central to providing a traditional game of bingo. Despite the declining use of bingo calls, started by the birth of commercial bingo and the push towards a faster, more mechanised game, what emerges is a story of a language that has evolved over time to reflect popular culture, and that has kept many calls dating back to the British origins of the game, as a gambling activity of the military or a seaside and fairground amusement. The oldest surviving calls date back to the Edwardian music hall and the stars, songs and catchphrases most popular with the working classes, including Vesta Tilly (thirty - Burlington Bertie, c1900) the comedian Charles Austin (forty-nine - PC Parker c1910) and sentimental ballads such as ‘Sweet Sixteen’ (c1898), but recorded many times before the Second World War, were fertile sources of language transfer. The calls collected in this research included many military references, especially to the regimental nicknames of regiments that fought in both World Wars, as well as calls that relate to the cost of train travel between London and Plymouth, references to Naval personnel going on leave. Military games shared a common language with civilian games to a large extent, with the military calls that relate to regiments long since amalgamated still used in games played in ex-servicemen’s clubs. Other calls still in use link closely to pre-decimal coinage. For example seventy-six has the call ‘Was she worth it?’ This is attributed either to the cost of a marriage licence, or a night out followed by bed and breakfast.

It is certainly the case that creativity in the use of language is enhanced rather than dimmed by bingo calls, yet they also serve another purpose. By the memorability of the phrases, through the use of techniques such as ellipsis and concision, the lexicography of bingo demonstrates that what researchers describe as the restricted language code of the working classes is a code that allows for cultural transmission across generations. The thinking public do not generally consider that bingo is a game worthy of serious consideration, yet the language of bingo, the phrases and terminology, have become popular clichés, entering the consciousness of the thinking public in a way that much that represents working class culture has not.

Footnotes

[1] Chris Baker, The Long, Long Trail The Story of the British Army of the Great War

[2] Heinz World

[3] John Ayto, Oxford Dictionary of Slang, Oxford, 1999 p.218

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To cite this article: Carolyn Downs, Bingo Number Names History And Meanings, April 2012, viewed on http://playingbingo.co.uk/land-bingo/history/08-number-name-history-meanings-2.php

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