Tic-Tac is the unusual bookmaker sign language that is commonly associated with former horse racing broadcaster John McCririck and is still used at trackside in the UK. It is now little more than a novelty and a tradition, technology having long since rendered it somewhat redundant but it is still occasionally seen at racing meetings. Even as long ago as 1999 The Observer newspaper reported that there were just three regular practitioners in the south of the UK and it has become less common a sight since then.

Tic-Tac uses a variety of hand signals and verbal calls to communicate the odds and market movers to fellow staff of a bookmaker or even to other rival bookmakers in the event of a very large bet on a particular horse. As said, technology has made this eccentric “language” all but obsolete, although many of the verbal terms remain in use in racing and betting slang. Interestingly there are even some regional variations within Tic-Tac terms and signals, primarily along a North/South divide and those using it would often wear white gloves in order to make their gestures clear.

Tic-Tac Basics

  • Evens – Forefingers of both hands extended and hands moved up and down in opposite directions several times. Slang terms include straight up, levels you devils and Scotch.
  • 5/4 – The right hand is placed on the left wrist, slang being simply “wrist”.
  • 7/4 – The slang term used is either Neves to rouf (seven to four backwards) or shoulder, the latter reflecting the signal of right hand being placed on left shoulder.
  • 2/1 – 2/1 is signalled by the right hand touching the nose and is called either bottle or bice.
  • 25/1 – As with £25, 25/1 is sometimes called pony, or sometimes macaroni, and is signalled by punching the fists together twice then touching the right shoulder with the right hand.