Lingo (Dutch game show)

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François Boulangé.jpg
François Boulangé hosted Lingo in the 1990s
Presented by Lucille Werner
Country of origin The Netherlands
Running time 20 minutes
Original network Nederland 2
Original release 5 January 1989–2 October 2014
External links

Lingo was a Dutch television game show produced by AVROTROS (earlier VARA, later TROS). Lingo is a word game that combines the games Mastermind and Bingo. Two teams of two contestants each try to guess and spell words, after being given a letter in the word and the length of the word. The length of the word that has to be guessed varies from five to eight letters, and depends on the round.

The game show aired daily starting in 1989 on one of Holland's public television channels. On July 30, 2014, it was announced that Lingo would stop producing new episodes starting in September 2014 due to declining ratings.[1] The final episode aired on the October 2, 2014.


The original version of the American-Canadian game show Lingo debuted in syndication in 1987 with Michael Reagan as host and Ralph Andrews as executive producer. Though it ran for only one season, international versions subsequently appeared in French-speaking Quebec and several European countries.

Among these European countries was the Netherlands, where a Dutch version, brought to the country by Harry de Winter (who bought the rights to the show), became a massive hit. De Winter later used his earnings from the Lingo series to start his own production company.

Robert ten Brink was the first host of the show. He was already well known for hosting the youth news show Het Jeugdjournaal. When Ten Brink eventually decided to leave the show, he was succeeded by François Boulangé, the show's editor. Boulangé thought hosting was not very important, seeing himself as a judge, rather than a host.


Guessing words[edit]

Short explanation:
1. W has been already given and is correct. R is present in the word but is in the wrong place.
2. D is correctly, and R is again in the wrong place.
3. O is at the correct place.
4. A is not in the first word (this was already shown to be true in the first guess): the rest is correct.
5. At the third word, O is already correct. A second O must be the only one needed.

Originally, each team had to guess 5-letter words. Later, the game was played with 6-letter words and, on Fridays, 7-letter words. Starting from 2013, games start out with 5-letter words, then progress to 6- and 7-letter words, and finish with a word that contains 8 letters.

The starting team is given the first letter of an unknown word, after which they have a short time to verbally make a guess on the word. The guess must be a valid Dutch word which is spelled correctly, contains the correct number of letters, and begins with the given letter. The guess must then be spelled out. The spelled word, however, does not have to be the same as the word called out as long as the spelling is correct. The players may not confer unless the host says that they may do so.

If the word is correctly spelled within a set time, the word is shown in a 5x5 grid. Letters of the guess that are in the same position as that of the unknown word are shown in red. Letters that appear in the unknown word but are in the wrong position are shown in a yellow circle. Any correct letters which are in the correct position are automatically dropped to the next line.

If a player fails to say a word within the time limit or gives an invalid word, the opposing team gets a turn. That team is then shown the next correct letter in the unknown word (unless there is only one space left). This will also happen if a team fails to guess the correct word within five turns. In this sixth turn, the opposing team may now confer.

Unusual words such as verb conjugations (e.g. "speaks") are considered valid words for a team to guess for the sake of giving themselves clues as to the real word, but are never the correct answer.

From 1989-2000, correct answers were worth ƒ50. Prior to 2013, each word was worth 25. From 2013 on, teams earned €15 for the first three 5-letter words, €25 for the next three 6-letter words, then €40 for the three 7-letter words after that, followed by a final eight-letter puzzle where the teams take it in turns, beginning at €60 and decreasing by €10 after every guess.

In 2008 a new rule was added: the opposing team may guess the word, even when it is the other teams turn once per game. If the opposing team is certain they know the word, they can press their button and guess the word. If their guess is incorrect, the score is halved. However, if they are correct, their score is doubled.

Drawing balls[edit]

Ball Basin if there are no balls taken out: 18 blue balls (among which 1 question mark), 3 red balls and 3 green balls.

If the word is correctly guessed, the team which guessed the word correctly may draw two balls from the ball basin. Each team has a Lingo card with 25 numbers on it (odd numbers for one team, even for the other) with some numbers crossed off before the start of the game. Each team's goal is to cross off numbers on the Lingo card by drawing the appropriately numbered ball in order to obtain a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line of five numbers. In that case, the team is said to have achieved a Lingo.

Each team has a ball basin, each with 17 blue numbered balls, 1 blue ball with a question mark, 3 green balls and 3 red balls. The numbers on the balls correspond to the numbers on the Lingo card and are crossed off the card if that ball is drawn. The question mark acts as a wild card: if this ball is drawn, the team may choose any number from the Lingo card to be crossed off. However, the ball with that number on it remains in the ball basin, and should that ball be subsequently drawn, the team has effectively wasted a turn.

If a green ball is drawn, it is placed above the ball basin and the team may draw another ball. If a team draws all three green balls, they win a jackpot which increases with each correctly guessed word (but doesn't add to a team's score). From 1989-2000, the jackpot increased by ƒ50, and carried over from show to show; after 2000, it starts at €0 and increases by €100 per word, but resets to €0 for each show, as well as when it is won..

If a player draws a red ball, their team's turn is over and play continues with the other team. Red balls are discarded after having been drawn so that they do not return to the ball basin.

If a team obtains Lingo, that team receives a bonus and is provided with a new Lingo card with new balls. Green balls carry over to a new Lingo card, but red balls do not. Thus, at the start of a new Lingo card, there will again be three red balls in the ball basin.

From 1989-2000, a Lingo won ƒ100, and the team got a new card. After 2000, Lingoes were worth €100, and the team got a new card. Whichever team has the most money wins.

Early Saturday night episodes where 6-letter words were introduced did not use the green balls at all. Other episodes during Nance's tenure as emcee involved the green balls having numbers of them; this was a tie-in to the Postcode National Lottery, where home viewers won cash and prizes based on what numbers on the green balls were revealed.

Ten-letter word[edit]

Every three turns, the teams must try to guess a ten-letter word from a given anagram (using the same color code). As time goes on, the letters switch so that more letters are in their correct place. If a team instantly guesses the word correctly, it gets €70. As time goes by, the amount of money is reduced by €10 with letter in place.

The original versions of the 1990s did not use ten-letter words.


In the first episodes of Lingo (before the introduction of the National Postcode Lottery), it could occur that the two teams were tied at the end of play. In that event a tiebreaker was played, play continued the same as with a regular word, except that the team gave up their turn after each attempt; conferring allowed for the entire word. Guessing the word correctly won the game but was worth no money and teams were not allowed to draw more balls.

Currently, the tiebreaker has been taken away and instead replaced by the last word (played on the same basis as above). Because this word is worth more money than a regular word, there are no longer ties.

Final round[edit]

First version[edit]

See also No Lingo Bonus Round from the 1987-88 North American version.

At the start of the first version of the Finale, there were 35 blue balls and 1 golden ball.

In the original version of Lingo transmitted by VARA, the final round was based on the "No Lingo" round in the original 1987 North American version. The team guesses up to five words in this round and must draw numbers from their hopper for every guess they took. This version lasted until 2001.

At the beginning of the finale, the team receives a 25-number Lingo card, and 16 numbers are crossed off. The center space is left uncovered; this number will always make a Lingo when drawn. The hopper is filled with 35 odd- or even-numbered balls and one gold ball.

The finale is played with five words. The team guesses a 5-letter word, as per normal gameplay. For each attempt, the team must draw one ball from the hopper (e.g., if a word is solved in 4 attempts, 4 balls must be drawn). If the word was not guessed, the team had to draw 6 balls. If a numbered ball is drawn that is not on the board, nothing is crossed off and it is discarded. If a numbered ball is drawn that is on the board, it is crossed off, and the ball is discarded as well. If the team draws the gold ball, they stop drawing and their money is automatically doubled. If they manage to draw the required number of balls (or draw the gold ball) without completing a Lingo, the team's money doubles. If at any point in the finale a number is drawn that forms a Lingo on the board, the game ends and the team loses all their winnings. After every word, they can risk their money and play on or stop the game and take their money accrued thus far.

This version of the finale gave rise to the famous sentence, "Staat... niet op de kaart!" ([The number] is... not on the board!) which was always called if a numbered ball was drawn which was not present on the Lingo card.

Second version[edit]

This version of the final round was played from 2000 to 2006. An earlier version of this finale was also used before 2000 in Saturday night episodes with 6-letter words. The team must guess seven words correctly within three minutes. If successful, the team wins €5000.

Third version[edit]

The third version of the finale is based on the second United States version's final round called "Bonus Lingo".

The team has 2:30 to guess as many words as they can, with a five-attempt limit at a word. The contestants must take turns when guessing and cannot confer with each other (unlike the US version) and if they stall for too long, they get buzzed out and lose a turn. For each word guessed correctly within the time limit, they get to draw a numbered ball from the hopper.

After time expires, the team is given a Lingo card with ten numbers (instead of the twelve in the US version) crossed off. One of the balls in the hopper always forms a Lingo when it is drawn (potentially as early as the first pull). The team can then draw the number of balls they won. The hopper starts off with 15 numbered balls. If team successfully makes a Lingo, they win cash. Unlike in the US version, however, there is no bonus for forming a Lingo on the first ball.

In February 2009, a silver ball was added to the hopper in this round. If it is drawn, the team can choose from two options: they can quit drawing at this point and take home half the total prize, or they can decline and continue playing.

Prior to 2013, the top prize was €5000. From 2013 on, each word adds €1000 to the potential prize; a pink ball was also added that awards a bonus prize when drawn. As before, drawing the silver ball gives the option of leaving with half the pot.

For the 5000th show in 2013, each word added €5000 to the pot. This endgame was won, for a grand total of €35,640.

Lingo Bingo Show[edit]

A special alternative on Lingo which was transmitted on Netherlands 1 is the Lingo Bingo Show, also presented by Lucille Werner. Here, four teams play against each other, and each team contains a Dutch celebrity.

Similar to ordinary Lingo, these teams words must correctly guess words and then draw balls. The main difference is that the ball barge has five different colours of balls with the characters B, I, N, G, and O written on them in place of numbers. Every team must try to draw one ball of each colour and draw so that the word BINGO is formed. If they draw a blank ball, they lose their turn. At the same time, the home viewers can win prizes based on the traditional game of bingo.

The final is played between the two best teams. Both teams get 2.5 minutes to correctly guess as many words as possible, and both teams guess the same set of words. The second team, therefore, is isolated in a soundproof booth while the first team is taking their turn.

In some episodes, François Boulangé acted as judge and word authority, and frequently interacted with host Lucille Werner.

Retransmissions and presentation[edit]

The programme was transmitted initially by VARA, presented by Robert ten Brink and François Boulangé.

In 2000, Lingo was taken over by TROS and serious changes were carried out. The duration of the programme was shortened and the 'postcode loterij' could publish the Lingo results. By both modifying the play time and significantly reducing the number of words, the points and therefore the prize money that teams can win continues to diminish. The rules of the show have also changed, particularly the final round (as previously discussed). Also, Nance became the new host and Michiel Eijsbouts became the new jury.

With Nance's transition from TROS to SBS in September 2005, a new host took over: Lucille Werner, who has previously hosted Get The Picture and Michiel Eijsbouts (the jury) was replaced by JP (Jan Peter Pellemans). Thus, the hosts of the show from pilot to present include:

Jury and voiceover[edit]

At each episode of Lingo there is a jury check to see if each called word exists. Since 2000, the jury also did the announcing for the show. The show's jury includes:

Until 2000, there were announcers for the introduction of each episode. The names of these announcers are unknown.

Possible moves[edit]

In October 2006, leaks from the network coordinator Ton F. van Dijk (a telejournalist for Netherlands 1) revealed that Lingo, in 2007, would move to public broadcasting. The programme drew many older viewers, whereas the new classification of the show on public broadcasting would draw a younger public, too. This caused a commotion to where even minister-president Jan Peter Balkenende was tempted to make official statements about the rumor.

Commercial broadcasting RTL 4 has shown interest in obtaining the rights to the show if they were abandoned by public broadcasting. TROS stated on 17 October that they will keep showing the game, but they wanted to examine how they could adapt the game for a broader public.

On the broadcast of 19 October 2006, Lucille indicated simply that Lingo will continue at TROS. Moreover, this broadcast came after a bet between Robert Jensen and Lucille. This bet implied that she would appear on TV with a deep décolletage. In return, Jensen would participate with Jan Paparazzi on an episode of Lingo. They, however, did not make it to the final.


Later on (dates are unclear), up to 2009, the Lingo show was coupled with the 'Sponsor Bingo Lottery' (a.k.a. Nationale Postcode Loterij, a national Dutch lottery). In this show the winning bingo (lottery) numbers were presented by Dutch celebrity Rick Brandsteder. He would also surprise one of the winners with a brand new car.

After 2009 the Lingo show was simply called 'Lingo' again, instead of 'Postcode Lingo' referring to the fact that in the 'Nationale Postcode Loterij' people would win large prizes based on their postal/zipcode.

Other media[edit]

Various versions of Lingo were produced for the PC and for consoles such as the Nintendo DS. The 2000 PC game, however, does not use the green ball rule.


  1. ^ "Spelprogramma Lingo stopt in september 2014". July 30, 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-03. 

External links[edit]