November 10, 2003

McJob fired from Merriam-Webster's

Jonas at Blind Hna has done some fine investigative blogging (in English).

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary had a webpage up listing new words in its most recent edition, including "McJob". McDonald's complained. Jonas noticed the word is now gone from the page.

The reason? Apparently, McDonald's has TRADEMARKED the term "McJobs". But it gets even better than that. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan at 08:11 PM GMT

Hold your little Orwellian horses (or perhaps that should be pigs). The word is still presumably in the dictionary? Must be, if it was just printed. Has anyone found out? Taking it out of a press release is not a venal sin, although I supposed it could look pandering. This is only half a story. Perhaps those fine investigative bloggers might fill in the rest.

Posted by: Matthew on November 10, 2003 09:09 PM

I never let my Orwellian pony out of the stable. I don't think "McJobs", or rather pressuring a publisher about how it uses the term, counts as Newspeak. First of all, Newspeak was specifically a government practice designed to control the population. McJobs, whether a legitimate jobs program or a term for crap work, is merely a brand's toying with the English language. If Mickey D's was so stressed out as to actually trademark the term just to keep a dictionary from using it, well, that's kind of pathetic. But McDonalds gets so much shit for simply being successful, that one can understand their frustration. Blind Hona is typical of this flack, equating an overreaction about a brand name to the very real bastardization of language by Leninist regimes. Come on. Jonas, get a fuckin life.

Posted by: jame on November 11, 2003 10:31 AM

Matthew, the title is mine, and I'd rather have a good pun than an accurate title. Boing boing did what you suggested, and yes, the word is still in the dictionary.

Jame, Jame? Is that the same Jame I knew once to be a gentle, softspoken fellow? I think Jonas's point remains if you accept that you can influence behavior both through legislation and by threatening lawsuits. If by supressing a word you manage to suppress its usage (and hence the thought behind it), whether you are a private company or a government makes little difference. In fact, how ironic it would be if we find echoes of Orwell's distopia not in government run amok but in corporations run amok.

If McDonald's asked the word be removed and Merriam-Webster obliged, silly Meriam-Webster, and kudos to McDonald's PR for doing their job. But if McDonald's threatened legal action, BAD Ronald.

Posted by: Stefan Geens on November 11, 2003 05:11 PM

Jame: "Sosse" is a somewhat derogatory Swedish word for "social democrat". When the Swedish Social-democratic Party invents a "sosse" thingamajig, trademarkes the name and pressurizes (Swedish) dictionary publishers to exclude the term on account of it being a trademark, I will certainly whip my Orwellian horses out of the stable again. But we aven't seen anything like that yet.

It's the principle, stupid.

Posted by: Jonas on November 11, 2003 06:44 PM

Sorry for yesterday's vulgarities. I was recovering from a hawker's stinky tofu, got my chemicals outta wack.
The point, Jonas my good sir, is that I don't believe one can equate a government's suppression of citizens' liberties with the brand management and legal machinations of a private company. It is simply a different league.
McDonalds does look rather prattish, but that's its PR problem. Its actions do not, however, construe a threat to free speech or to literature. Journalists may still refer to "McJobs" if they like. Merriam Webster was toying with a company's brand name, there is no question of that.

Posted by: jame on November 12, 2003 01:26 AM

Gentlemen, I rest my case.

Posted by: jame on November 12, 2003 10:02 AM