McDonald's petitions Oxford English Dictionary to remove the word McJob

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Friday, May 25, 2007

A McDonald's restaurant in Exeter in Devon, UK.
Image: Billy Hicks.

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines McJob as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects." The McDonald's fast-food giant has begun a campaign to have the word removed from the dictionary, or to have its definition changed, by lobbying British MPs. The company has also set up an online petition with the slogan "Change the definition. Sign the petition."

Clive Betts, MP for Sheffield Attercliffe agrees with the restaurant chain. Betts has tabled a Commons motion on the issue. The motion has so far gained the support of 15 other MPs.

It is indicating that the jobs they are doing are worthless, that anyone could just walk in off the street and do them, that all workers are untrained. We do need well trained staff with good customer relations and I think the description is derogatory. The hospitality industry is very important to this country. The people who work there are the public face of this country to millions of tourists who come here every year. One thing I am interested to hear from McDonald's is that they do train their staff. They put a lot of effort into that.
— Clive Betts, MP

The compilers of the OED point out that they merely record the description of how the word is used, rather than prescribe how it should be used. The term, McJob, has been in usage at least 20 years, they say. It was popularised in 1991 in Douglas Coupland's novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture as one of the margin definitions. Here it was described as "a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low benefit, no-future job in the service sector. Frequently considered a satisfying career choice by people who have never held one."

In 2003, Merriam-Webster included McJob in the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, and defined it as "a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement." This definition prompted a letter from then CEO Jim Cantalupo who said it was "an inaccurate description of restaurant employment" and "slap in the face" of restaurant employees.


Wikipedia has more about this subject:
Look up McJob in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

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