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Bingo Hall

And Bingo was his Game-O!

"There was an old farmer . . . "or perhaps I should start with "There was an [old children song about a dog] named Bingo." Bingo is such a strange word, such a strange name for a dog. Ask any teenager about bingo and you you'll get the stereotypical description of the old person's home with the crazed, overzealous elderly dancing around their long banquet tables with their purple hair and out of date, though still very classy, flower print nightgowns. Where did this word, with all its cultural significance come from?

Many believe that both the game and song where derived from a twenties drinking game. Basically people would gather around and sing the clever little rhyme about the farmer, and when it got the B-I-N-G-O part each person had a letter and had to say it in rhythm. If they messed up they took a drink. The more you play the harder it gets! If this is truly the origins of the word Bingo, then it doesn't take a large stretch of imagination to guess how it turned into our stereotypical elderly lottery-like game. From vice comes other vice.

Bingo the lottery game, started as Beano. Little beans placed on corresponding numbers . . . it's an appropriate name, is it not? As legend has it, a bunch of Italian immigrants were playing an enticing round of B-E-A-N-O when one of the women who had had a bit too much to drink stood up and shouted "B-b-bingo?" One cannot help but form a connection between this drunken woman and the fact that Bingo was a drinking game. Well, the rest is history, literally. Ed Lowe soon came out with a new game called Bingo. It was the perfect crowd game. It could be played by large groups of people successful, allowed for gambling and was the perfect fundraiser. It can be no surprise then that it was quickly taken in by churches as a form of group entertainment.

Having had your history lesson, you might now ask "Why? Why is this important to me?" The simplest reply is that Bingo is everywhere. It is in the churches, retirement homes, schools and even in the dictionary. Conversationally it is used as an exclamation when someone is on the right track. "Bingo!" we shout when a friend has made an accurate guess. Bingo is an American tradition through and through. Bingo is used as an educational tool all over the U.S. It can be found in most every elementary classroom, and is often used to teach English as a second language.

Bingo is about as American as Baseball, and a lot more practical as indoor entertainment. Who could have ever guessed that a little five by five square of cardboard could so quickly work its way into the everyday ordinary of American life. It is a game of chance where everyone has an equal chance of winning, and no one is set at a disadvantage. Bingo represents equality and what is more American than that.

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