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McJobs, Big Business and the OED

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We all know what a McJob is, right? The OED defines it as "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector." However, taking a hint from 1984, those who control the money control the language. So it comes some surprise, but not a lot of shock that, according to this article in Time, "(McDonalds) is currently lobbying dictionary publishers to change the meaning of the word McJob - or remove it altogether - on the grounds that it denigrates the company's employees." Apparently they want it to be changed to something so blatantly false it's hard to stomach. If this letter from the Financial Times is to believed, they would prefer that McJob be henceforth defined to "reflect": a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression and skills that last a lifetime. Which, if you've ever had to work at a McJob before, you know is simply not true. Otherwise it wouldn't BE a McJob - it'd be something approaching a worthwhile profession, wouldn't it? I don't know whether to be scared that big business is trying to rewrite the dictionary around us, or whether to laugh at the notion that the "skills" you might learn at a McDonalds would be transferable to any profession other than another McJob. How often do you have to make Big Macs for the shareholders meeting? It is true that the habits you might learn at a McJob can get you noticed in a job interview, and hold you in good stead with future employers. But as a whole the stimulation is entirely adrenal, the reward comes in the form of a paycheck you can't really live on, and while chances for upward progression exist, there's only so many slots available. Maybe if the business folks wanted to do something useful, they could make it so that employment at a McJob actually resembles the definition they want to force on it. But then it wouldn't be a McJob... would it?
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J. Edward Tremlett is a lot of things, currently. He's back in the states after a seven-year stint in Dubai, UAE. He's been published in such diverse places as The American Partisan, the International American, The End is Nigh, Pyramid Magazine (more...)

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