Bingo Was His Name-o! – The Creativity Guru

Most American youngsters grew up singing a music a couple of canine known as “Bingo.” The most vital a part of the music is spelling the canine’s identify, letter by letter, and this is the lyrics:

There was a farmer who had a canine

And Bingo was his name-o.




And Bingo was his name-o

It’s not nice poetry, nevertheless it’s quite a lot of enjoyable to shout! Bingo is within the information this week as a result of the canine was named in a dissenting opinion of the US Supreme Court by Chief Justice John Roberts. The case involved whether or not digital bingo – involving playing – was allowed on tribal lands within the state of Texas. Texas state legislation regulates, however doesn’t prohibit, bingo video games, and the Supreme Court dominated that bingo could be performed on sovereign tribal lands. In his dissenting opinion, Roberts stated that “the electronic bingo played at the Speaking Rock Entertainment Center is about as close to real bingo as Bingo the famous dog.” (The precise bingo recreation has a 25-square card, 5 by 5, and the primary individual to get 5 in a row wins.)

This story led Wall Street Journal reporter Ben Zimmer to analysis the historical past of the phrase bingo.* As it seems, it is a story of group genius, of emergence and collaboration over time. Guess what? The quantity got here earlier than the well-known recreation. It was a grown-up music about ingesting – not an uncommon supply of musical creativity. (The Star Spangled Banner, anybody?) Zimmer discovered sheet music from 1780 with this textual content:

“The farmer loved a cup of good ale. He called it rare good stingo.”

Other variations had been utilized in school battle songs. I hope I’ve time to lookup these lyrics!

From the 1870s, kids performed a recreation by singing and clapping a model of this music. Around 1903, the phrase “bingo” was additionally used to explain one thing sudden and sudden. Nowadays we frequently say it when somebody will get the fitting reply.

Sometime within the 1900s or 1910s, a playing recreation emerged by means of a separate historic course of. It glided by many names: lotto, kieno, housey-housey. In 1922, a Pittsburgh businessman named Hugh J. Ward developed a model of this recreation and known as it “bingo” as a result of the music was well-known and he thought it was a catchy phrase. The recreation was performed with corn kernels to mark your fields and it was additionally known as “the corn game”. It was normally a touring carnival. Around 1940, a toy producer named Edwin Lowe noticed the sport at an Atlanta carnival and started mass-producing the video games. It caught within the ’40s and ’50s and, as they are saying, the remainder is historical past.

This is an efficient instance of what I name group of genius–when improvements emerge from a distributed and collective course of. No one is “the inventor” of Bingo. It went by means of many steps, many twists and turns, involving many individuals and communities. With these kinds of improvements, the “creator” is a posh social course of with numerous contributors.

*Ben Zimmer, “A song for kids that became a game for adults.” WSJSaturday, June 25, 2022.


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