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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Thursday, December 18, 2003

Some bingo-related trivia:

1 Bingo has existed in some form since at least the early 1500s when it was already an established lottery game in Italy.

2 Bing Crosby received his childhood nickname of Bingo from his favourite jug-eared character in a comic strip called the Bingville Bungle.

3 In British slang, bingo wings is the name given to loose skin or flabby flesh on the under sides of the upper arms. It comes from the idea that bingo is largely played by overweight elderly women.

4 It is becoming quite popular to play bingo at bridal showers in the USA, with cards depicting traditional gifts which are struck off as numbers usually are when the bride unwraps that item.

5 In early 30s New York, bingo became a fad when introduced by Edwin Lowe who had seen the game played at travelling carnivals in the South. Numbers were covered with beans and winners shouted Beano! when all numbers were covered. When one of Lowe’s players wrongly shouted Bingo!, he adopted this as the name of the game.

6 Cow chip bingo (aka ‘cow pie bingo’ and ‘bessie bingo’) is a game played in Australia and the USA where a field is marked off in squares, the squares are raffled and a cow is let into the area. The winning square is the one where the cow lays down a pat.

7 Bingo, the tubby orange monkey in the TV series The Banana Splits was played by Terence Winkless and voiced by Daws Butler. Since Bingo was drummer with the men-in-animal-suits pop group, and since it was partly a spoof on The Monkees, who were an attempt to create an American Beatles, it’s likely his name was a play on Ringo.

8 Numbers were given nicknames in bingo (a practice now dying out as the game tries to escape its tawdry image). These names were a mix of rhyming slang, visual image and topical cant. Some standard ingredients include leg (1), duck (2), flea (3), door (4) and fat lady (8). The nickname for number 9 (‘doctor’s orders’) came from the advertising for an early 20th century laxative named Number 9.

9 There have been many songs about bingo, including The Upsetters’ ‘Bingo Kid’, Patrik Fitzgerald’s fey punk ‘Bingo Crowd’, Matt McGinn’s fun-folky ‘Bingo Bella’, girl-band Cleopatra’s ‘Bingo My Love’, The Fall’s early effort ‘Bingo Master’s Breakout’ and Tom Verlaine’s ‘Mr Bingo’.

10 On a CD of songs by North American Indian women, I encountered the Six Nations Women Singers, an Iroquois vocal combo, and marvelled at the breadth of their subject matter. The first song was about the White Man’s destruction of mother earth, the second about bingo (translation "I only have two dollars, but I’m going to bingo anyway.").

11 Early pinball machines, especially those in the 1930s, were often based on the game of bingo. These machines tended to have prize money as opposed to the usual ‘for amusement only’. Players had to achieve runs of certain numbers by landing balls in holes.

12 Scientists in Canada have identified a condition they call ‘bingo lung’, caused by over-exposure to the smoke-laden atmosphere in bingo halls.

Source: various

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