Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Linguistic debate over the Polish EURO 2012 slogan

With the EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine launching in less than a fortnight, a controversy has recently arisen in relation to a slogan promoting the event and welcoming visitors to Poland. Contrary to some of you might suspect, the slogan is not offensive in any way but simply incorrect.

The concern is that the phrase "Feel like at home" will make the Europeans chuckle rather than feel homely. The slogan is a literary translation of the Polish "Czuj się jak u siebie w domu" (czuj się - feel; jak - like; u siebie w domu - at home), and it is supposed to constitute a warm welcome to all the visitors who come to Poland to enjoy Euro 2012, encouraging them to feel comfortable and at ease.

A debate has arisen with the Anglophiles claiming that in English we say: "Feel at home", and that the incorrect slogan is simply a disgrace, humiliating Poland as the host of the UEFA European Championships. The argument has mounted to such an extent that the advertising agency CAM Media SA - a company responsible for the promotional campaign of Poland for the EURO 2012 decided to take a stance and explain what lies behind the slogan.

According to the managing director of the CAM Media SA, Krzysztof Przybyłowski, the language of advertising - just like art - is subject to its own (here: linguistic) rules: "Our campaign focuses on two fundamental, but very internally diverse groups of addressees: Polish citizens, whose command of English is of various levels and football fans from 15 European countries in 13 of which English is not an official language. Such a diversified group of receivers requires maximum simplicity of communication in order to achieve a common basis allowing to understand the message."

He justified the use of a deliberate error by the fact that in advertising many borders are being crossed, and that it is particularly true for slogans. When creating them, advertisers resort to various linguistic operations such as unusual collocations or rarely used forms. The catchier a slogan, the easier to remember the message it carries.

Przybyłowski claims that the error in the "Feel like at home” catchphrase did not result from the lack of knowledge of its authors but it was a well-thought-out move aiming at “differentiating the message and making it more memorable”. In support for his justification, the managing director of CAM Media SA quoted widely recognised slogans such as "Think different"  (Apple), "Real news" (CNN) or "I'm lovin' it" (McDonald's).

He underlined that the creation of the EURO 2012 slogan was an informed decision made upon consultations with linguists and native speakers of English. "The main reason for such a choice was the diverse group of addressees that I have already mentioned. The linguistic form that we went for is closer to the global variation of English, and more literal than its original, idiomatic and hermetic British version. We simply used an exaggerated form that is undoubtedly not burdened with any errors," says Przybyłowski. Apparently, the slogan is supposed to greet European football fans in an informal, warm and honest way. The warmth, according to the CAM Media, is implied by the word 'like' in "Feel LIKE at home", while 'at home' could also be interpreted as 'play on your home field or ‘feel like on your home stadium’.
A question to you: as a linguist or a potential visitor coming to Poland for EURO 2012, what are your impressions of this slogan? Would it make you smile or laugh out loud? How do you think others might react? I would love to know your views so please share!


  1. It is ugly, nasty and they have forgotten than two of the three slogans they compared it too have better English than theirs does. Sorry, agency, you dropped the ball on this one.

  2. It gives rise to a pause and contemplation, maybe out of bewilderment or a mind's attempt to make sense out of the way it is framed. When I read words of justification it makes me more upset because it appears to be more of an weak excuse than real fact. If he really wanted to achieve these goals he would have found a different way and not the one taken.

  3. makes little to no difference, arguably language is used for communication, and if it gets the job done, then what do you care, really?. They are trying to welcome people, not sell blood diamonds, the only outraged people here are miserable, dull, hopelessly pedantic people, that are at best caustic in person.

  4. Thank you for your comments. One of the reasons I wrote a blog post about this slogan is that it is controversial and triggers discussions. I have to admit, it is an either love-it-or-hate-it issue.