Two fleas image

Chances are you’ll be familiar with some of the best-known bingo calls even if you’re new to the game. These nicknames for the numbers used in the game have been around since 1950s Britain, when bingo first became popular in holiday camps like Butlins.

It’s said that these calls were designed to cover for the noisy and slow number generating machines back in the day. Whatever their origin, bingo calls serve to make the game more entertaining, with their mix of funny puns and innuendo. New calls are being added every day as cultural references change.

Calling the shots

The job of a bingo caller is an art in itself. Celebrity callers were popular in the 1960s and until 2007 there was even a National Bingo Caller of the Year competition! Bingo calls are thriving in bingo clubs today, and although some sites don’t use traditional calls, you’ll still find virtual callers in most online bingo games.

In 2003 Butlins and Gala published new official calls, replacing outdated calls with more up-to-date ones like ‘J-Lo’s bum’ for 71 and ‘Jimmy Choo’ for 32! The popular online bingo site 888 Ladies has thrown tradition out the window and introduced its own modern version to fit in with the new generation of young, dynamic bingo players. And wherever you play, you’ll still hear the traditional ‘Eyes down!’ before the game starts!

Names for numbers

Most numbers have more than one call and the meanings behind the monikers vary. Some are references to the appearance of a number; ‘flea’ is used for the number 3 and ‘duck’ for 2, because the figures resemble the animals. So what about the name of our site? Can you guess which number you’d be looking for if you heard ‘Two Little Fleas’ called out at a bingo game?! Celebrity names have always been popular too, with 1960s favourites like Danny La Rue and Diana Dors surviving alongside modern figures like Gareth Gates and Gok Wan.

Bingo calls give us a snapshot into the popular culture of post-war Britain, when the game first became a national pastime. The famous ‘Doctor’s orders’ for number 9 refers to the ‘No. 9’ laxative pill issued to soldier in the First World War and 26’s nickname ‘Pick and Mix’ indicates the cost of sweets in old money!

1-90 and counting!

Some, like number 10’s ‘den’ change over time; it’s been ‘Maggie’s den’, ‘Tony’s den’ and ‘Gordon’s den’ over the years, depending on the Prime Minister!

Single digit numbers are often prefaced with ‘on its own’ and numbers ending in zero are often called ‘blind’ (e.g. 50 = ‘blind fifty’). If two digits are the same, as with a number like 44, the caller might say ‘all the fours’. Every game will have its own favourite calls and there are often regional alternatives too!

Calls are always followed by the number itself, so you don’t need to worry about learning them all. There are hundreds of variations out there, but here’s a list of the most popular for you to enjoy!

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