Slogan World Cup 2018

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It's nearly World Cup time again and Fifa/Hyundai have announced the winners of their Be There With Hyundai competition to come up with national slogans to appear on each team bus. 

Four years ago, I ranked all the slogans, with a clear winner emerging. Ivory Coast's Elephants Charging Towards Brazil! set a new benchmark for slogans generally – only four words, but somehow combining the national animal (elephants) with the host country (Brazil), linked by an exciting verb (charging), and all adding up to one epic visual image. It's an outstanding slogan.

Let's see how this year's match up. (The names in brackets are the members of the public who contributed each slogan.)

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This isn't pitched right for Argentina. For most teams, winning the World Cup is a dream. But Argentina have won it twice before and reached the final last time. Germany would never talk about winning as a 'dream'. Not terrible, but not great. 3/10

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This is a step backwards from 2014's 'Socceroos: Hopping Our Way Into History'. That was nice. This one feels like it needs an editor – 'brave' and 'bold' are almost exact synonyms, and the rhythm is compromised in order to accommodate 'Socceroos', which in any case is a slightly shit nickname for a team. That said, I can hear this being chanted aloud. 5/10

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Belgium have learned from 2014's disastrous 'Expect the impossible'. This is stronger – yes, 'red devils' is a bit Man Utd. But it ties in with the team crest and sounds exciting. I'd like to see it paired with something more vivid and visual than the abstract 'on a mission'. But this is decent sloganeering. 7/10

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Let's take a moment to laugh one last time at Brazil's 2014 slogan 'Brace Yourselves! The 6th is coming!' – which was briefly and gloriously appropriate when they went 5-0 down to Germany and ended up losing 7-1. This one has unfortunately slipped into the default numerology approach that blights so many slogans. 4/10

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More sloganeering-by-numbers. There's a widespread belief that slogans are some kind of auditing system to count every object in the world. 2/10

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The denial of impossibility is another recurring slogan trope. (See also Senegal.) This is long and generic. 3/10

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Decent, workmanlike slogan. But it doesn't really zero in on Croatia's main point of difference – there are much smaller nations in the World Cup. Croatia's national flag contains a chessboard – I think this would be a fertile area for sloganeering. 6/10

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I should point out that I am the mug in this whole slogan-reviewing scenario. All the winning entrants got free tickets to the World Cup, so good for them. That said, this is a massively boring slogan. 2/10

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I'm going to assume this sounds better in the original Egyptian. It's pretty strong even in translation – I agree that Pharaohs is a cool word. 8/10

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What do you reckon? It definitely has strengths – three words, a strong imperative voice, rooted in the national anthem, positive sporting sentiment. I just can't shake the feeling that it's a bit school-swot-handing-in-his-homework-two-days-early. I want slogans to be more fun. 8/10

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I know I'm the only person in the world who will notice this, but this is the same as France's Euro 2016 slogan (also from a Hyundai-sponsored competition). And it was rubbish then too. 0/10

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No dreaming for Germany, just a confident plan to go out and win it again. I assume the full stop after 'Zusammen' gives it more impact. But it doesn't disguise the fact that this is a generic, off-the-shelf slogan. 2/10

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The thing is, the dream has already come true – Iceland are in the World Cup for the first time! If you're going to talk about dreams, it should be about living the dream. But also, you're Iceland – home of ancient gods, elves, trolls and sea monsters! You've got to get those into your slogan. You had a massive shot at beating Elephants Charging Towards Brazil. 1/10

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1/10

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2014 was 'Samurai, the time has come to fight!' This adds an extra dimension of colour, but that's about it. Exciting, but could push it further. 7/10.

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2014 was the heartbreaking 'Enjoy it Reds!'. This is stronger and wisely brings in the national animal. I'm going to assume it sounds good in the original Korean and go with a generous 8/10

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I bet lots of people entered 'We're not paying for the wall!' and Fifa/Hyundai filtered them out. This is the problem with this competition – there are probably lots of exciting entries and the organisers go for the safe ones. Like this. 3/10

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This is good – Atlas Lions sounds exciting. Is 'pride' a pun in the original language, or just a nice coincidence? Either way, I think this needs a verb. You really need a verb in a good sports slogan. 8/10

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Or do you? This one has no verb, but it's pretty poetic and epic in scale. I assume it's a reference to the eagle, national bird of Nigeria. Good effort. 7.5/10

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And another verbless one – but then you get a lot of energy and suggestion of motion in the word 'force'. Rooted in a national point of difference, the two oceans. Strong. 8.5/10

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Slogans generally shouldn't have two full sentences. This is like a Medium post. 2/10

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You've got to hand it to whoever entered this and got two free tickets to the World Cup. Well played. 0/10

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What is it with Portugal? In 2014, they had 'The past is history, the future is victory'. It's like a Twitter thread of slogans, or some kind of continual work in progress. Well done on making it rhyme, but it needs to make sense as well. 4/10

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If you read this as an official, Putin-endorsed slogan, then it's a laughable piece of misdirection. But if you read it as the players and fans subtly getting the idea of openness into their slogan, then it's worth supporting. I'll go with the latter. 7/10

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Yes, go on... go on... Desert Knights... doing... something? Could they be charging? Could they be charging in a particular direction? Come on Saudi Arabia, finish your slogan!!!! 7/10

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Here we go, the denial-of-impossibility approach. For the record, France's 2014 slogan was 'Impossible N’est Pas Francais' – so again, well done to wahab94 for getting away with this. Also, 'impossible' is definitely a French / Senegalese word. 1/10

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I'm never buying a Hyundai car. 1/10

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In the word cloud of all sporting slogans, the word 'together' probably looms largest. 2/10

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See what I mean? 2/10

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I assume this will appear on the bus in all four of those languages (which don't include English). It's tricky for Switzerland as you have to cram four versions of your slogan onto a bus. Maybe they should go with an emoji next time. 3/10

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Hard to judge without knowing the original language, but this feels like two slogans joined together. I'd strip it back to 'Russia, here come the eagles!' – I like the implied threat in addressing Russia directly. That would get an 8.5/10, but unfortunately they've overwritten it. 7/10

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There's a nice thought in here – the idea of turning grey old Russia (national stereotype trigger alert) into the sunny blue of Uruguay (a nod to the national colour and sun symbol on the flag). Just feels a bit baggy at the moment. 8/10

All in all, this is a decent tournament and a step in the right direction – we have devils, pharaohs, samurai, tigers, lions, eagles, oceans and desert knights. Nothing quite scales the heights of Elephants Charging Towards Brazil, but that is a big ask. I'd say Panama just about edge it with the force of their two oceans, but Egypt had a good crack, and England were in the latter stages.

If someone at Fifa/Hyundai is reading this, I know you have to keep things non-controversial, but can we keep cranking up the excitement and epic animal battles, and definitely scale back the numerology and togetherness next time? Also, do you have any more tickets? And is there time to add a few more words onto Saudi Arabia's bus?

World Cup 2014 slogans review

Euro 2016 slogans review

Yip, Witchell and stand-up

Further updates from Realtime Notes – Instagram poetry written in rapid response to current events. This month's newsletter is reproduced below.

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I bought a new book this month (well done Nick) – a collection of verse by Yip Harburg, better known as the lyricist behind 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', 'Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?' and 'It's Only a Paper Moon' (inspiration for the poem above). 

I've always liked those great American lyricists – brilliant players with language and writers of some of the most romantic words ever written, but who always treated it essentially as a trade.

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It turns out Yip Harburg was also a politically engaged writer with a lifelong commitment to social justice (you can tell from the Paper Moon lyrics quoted above, which is what got me Googling him). He channelled this into light verse, which was eventually collected into a book illustrated by the great Seymour Chwast.

It includes stuff like this:

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And this:

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That's nice, isn't it? Feels like it would slot straight into Instagram and Twitter if they had been around.

It's not a great revelation to find people have written light verse about topical subjects before. But it's good to know there were poets responding to Watergate in real time – and there is plenty to enjoy in the poems, long after they were written. In fact, they're better because you know he was writing in the thick of it (like many, his career was blighted by McCarthyist blacklisting – anti-truth, America-first hysteria has a long history). 

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I like to think poems like the one above come from a similar spirit of verbal playfulness in response to serious times. The language of active shooter situations has become ritualistically familiar, but it's the 'active' that always gets me – in contrast to the political paralysis.

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So, deaths. This month's roll call includes Tessa Jowell, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe and Margot Kidder – the picture of her with Christopher Reeve is a poem in itself when you consider what life brought them afterwards.

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On a happier note, this month brought a royal wedding!

I feel like Nicholas Witchell didn't get enough airtime in the coverage, but this is the eternal Witchellian reality – his duty is to cover the royals until the big occasions when Huw Edwards steps in. Or Dermot O'Leary.

Anyway, I love writing poems about Nicholas Witchell. 

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The moron continues to do what he does, and I continue to search for language in response. These fragments I have shored against my ruins.

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I quite liked this Harvey Weinstein poem – sometimes the form clicks into place when you're pondering the subject matter, and a handy New York / Perp Walk rhyme supplies itself. 

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To finish on an indulgently self-analytical note (my favourite note), I've semi-consciously tried to stake out a territory with Realtime Notes that takes in Yip Harburg-style playful/formal versifying but extends to more surreal/dark experiments and sometimes loosens up into confessional, artfully casual semi-prose.

When the poems come out in a conversational style like the one above, I like the effect it creates – similar to a stand-up's delivery. I have a not-entirely-unserious plan to take up stand-up comedy when I get to the age of 70. I think everyone should try something new at that age, and my advancing senility will give me a good PR hook.

For now, it's on with the poems. 628 poems and 290 days into this now.

I'll leave the last word to Yip – this could easily be a Realtime Note about the renationalisation of the East Coast line.

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Realtime Notes continues on Instagram

Triptychs, ruts and skim-writing

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[This is from the latest Realtime Roundup newsletter, reviewing what I've been up to on Realtime Notes throughout the month of April.]

Then I felt like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific – and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien. 


John Keats wrote that about the first time he read Chapman's Homer. I include it here because it's how I felt when I realised you can paste images directly into Notes.

I've used images before in Realtime Notes, as accompanying material when they add context to the poem, but this is the first time I've made them directly part of the 'thing' itself. It led directly to a couple of 'triptych' poems – firstly, the anagram one above. 

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And secondly this commentary on Amber Rudd's resignation, following Damien Green's departure a few months back – my bid for a Private Eye front cover.

Are they poems though? Well, in a way, no – they're more like witty cartoons. But I still think of them as poems, and they're part of a poetry project – that's the context in which they were produced.

It's fun to open up a new dimension in the project, especially now I'm over 8 months in. But I'm also slightly wary of heading too much in a visual direction.

There's a great tradition of merging images and poems into one artistic thing – the original versions of Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience come to mind. The mega-Instapoets like Rupi Kaur continue this tradition by presenting poems as visual artworks with decorative illustrations. But I still find myself suspicious of it – like it indicates a lack of faith in the words themselves, or seeks to shape the way you respond by creating an air of preciousness around them. For better or worse, I think of Realtime Notes (and poetry generally) as words grappling directly with the world. The visual is part of that (and words themselves are visual objects), but I like the textiness of the Notes app and the way it presents the words raw. It probably gets me fewer Instagram followers, but they're all the nice, intelligent, good-looking ones. 

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This month started pretty rockily – I struggled for a few days to write anything. So far, I've posted at least one poem every day since I started last 17 August and I feel I have to keep that up for at least a year. On 2 April I had nothing with midnight looming, but at least I managed to retrieve the little observation above – a poem about not having written a poem.

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The rut continued for a while, but fortunately the news keeps providing little moments of inspiration. 

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This month saw a couple of milestones. Firstly, I passed the 500 mark on Realtime Notes – about 240 days in, so that's a decent rate of at least two poems a day. All about quantity not quality.

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And secondly we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary with a trip to Grasmere and the church where we were married. This is a tactical point at which to insert a formal apology to my better half for always staring at my phone too much.

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To be fair, she stares at her own canvas quite a lot – follow her @sueasbury.

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OK, deaths time. Ray Wilkins, Eric Bristow and Barbara Bush all left us this month, as did Dale Winton. If I ever wind down Realtime Notes, maybe I'll keep the obituaries going.

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But I'm not planning to wind down yet. I'm still enjoying the little daily alchemy that takes place when you turn the news, and your feelings about it, into some bundle of words that has form and meaning. The one above was written when I woke up too early one morning and had that vague out-of-time feeling that you sometimes get early in the morning. I like the alliteration running through it – the m's and s's and t's. Not that it's a highly crafted work in terms of time spent, but some poems come out with more craft than others, and it feels like it captured whatever mood I was in. 

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I've been thinking more than usual this month about the worth of this project, and it was nice to hear I'm on roughly the same page as Kanye West.

I've said before in this newsletter that I consider 'time' as one of the last formal constraints in poetry – you're expected to spend time crafting a poem, and spend time reading it. I still think that's a definitively valuable quality in poetry and I'll go back to it one day, but I think there's fertile territory in pushing against it.

Here's an idea I'll run past you. You know how a lot of people skim-read these days? It's often the way I read the news – lightly scanning my eyes down the page, picking up the gist, moving onto the next thing. Skim-reading is often seen as the enemy of the writer, like it's our job to get people to slow down. But I've decided to think of Realtime Notes as a turning of the tables. My new word for it is skim-writing.

If you're going to skim-read, then I'm going to skim-write. I think that's a good deal.

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I'll finish this particularly long round-up by saying I went to a particularly long place this month. The hardest place in the UK to write about in real time.

Thanks for reading – makes the whole project worthwhile. See you back in realtime.