Wednesday 15 February 2017


If you're a native Irish speaker, or had the language beaten into your head by an angry nun, you may pronounce the title tChocky-tChocky which may give you a Republican frisson from the united-Ireland slogan Tiocfaidh ár lá [pron: tChocky aw law and meaning Our Day Will Come]. It is, however, a literal translation of Housey-Housey which is one of the many names for the game called Bingo: others include Lotto.
In these WEA islands, Bingo is played on a card consisting of 3 lines of 5 numbers running from 1 to 90, arranged so that the single digits are on the left of the ticket and the 80s are on the right. See [L] for strip of three. If you buy a set of six cards then all 90 numbers are there but they are in different combinations from the cards of your neighbour.  The game is that the numbers are selected at random by a Caller and you-the-punter have to check off each number as it is called. If you check off all your numbers you yell out Bingo! or House! and have your card checked against false claims. For your pains, you win a modest prize and The House takes a modest profit for the heating, lighting and general bonhomie. The alternative is the boozer, although increasingly alcohol is available in bingo halls as well. It tends to be a working-class [or/and unworking-class] pursuit, mostly seen as harmless fun and a nice night out for a laugh and a natter with your chums.

I was at the Heritage Group with Pat the Salt last Monday morning. The HG consists of the demographic which might do Bingo together if there was a convenient hall: being past middle age, mostly female and generally drinkers of tea. It was the first meeting since well before Christmas and there was a bit of gentle catch-up before some planning went in towards what was on the schedule for 2017. One cunning plan is to  participate in Seachtaine na Gaelige which happens every year in the run up to St Patrick's Day. The idea is to meet in the library in three weeks time to play Bingo as Gaelige. There was some gentle ribbing by the old chaps against the couple of members who hadn't suffered through Irish in school because they wouldn't know the numbers: A haon, a dó, a trí, a ceathair, a cúig, a sé, a seacht, a hocht, a naoi agus a deich. Never having recited, to the thump of a belt, the following doggerel:
A haon, a dó, asul agus bó,
A trí, a ceathair, bróga leathair,
A cúig, a sé, cupán tae,
A seacht, a hocht, seanbhean bhocht,
A naoi, a deich, císte te.
Okay French people, I'll render that in English:
One, two, an ass and a cow,
Three, four, leather shoes,
Five, six, a cup of tea,
Seven, eight, a poor old lady,
Nine, ten, a hot cake.
Much hilarity was also had at the idea of putting some of the traditional calls into Irish. It would be boring and mechanical if the numbers were just read out, so more or less all the numbers have tags or epithets: legs 11; half-a-crown 26; rise-and-shine 29; all the threes 33; almost retired 64; clickety-click 66; two fat ladies 88; top of the shop 90. Some of these are more quirky and peculiar than others, so I've no idea how well they will render into Irish or even if there is wildly different convention for characterising the numbers. "dhá na mban saill ochtó hocht" ? As the Caller is like to be the librarian, virtually the only adult in town with any fluency in Irish, we'll have to see what her deep experience of Bingo is.

1 comment:

  1. In my experience of tra mhor library staff, we may have full confidence in their many and varied capabilities. If only the "man" would stop shuffling them round the system 😀