Monday, March 26, 2007


CD in Play: David Bowie, Hunky Dory

Turn and face the strange, and excuse me while I pull out my Op./Ed. soapbox. According to an article up on the Ceeb's website, McDonalds wants to change the definition of "McJob" in the UK. The definition of "McJob", according to the Oxford English Dictionary is, "An unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector". First known usage was in the Washington Post in 1986. The term was popularised in Douglas Coupland's Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, a book that also popularised the term "Generation X". McDonalds contests that the term is unfair, demeaning and out of date.
Taking a line from an old McD's ad campaign, we deserve a break today. Today and every other day from McCorporate shenanigans. McDonalds has no right to contest the meaning of "McJob" or how the slang term is used. It is abhorrent to think a company could think that it has the power to change the way we perceive language, all in an effort to save public face. Control the language, control the thought.

"Dictionaries are supposed to be paragons of accuracy. And in this case, they got it completely wrong," said Walt Riker, a McDonald's spokesman. "It's a complete disservice and incredibly demeaning to a terrific work force and a company that's been a jobs and opportunity machine for 50 years." - from the CBC article.

Do the dictionaries have it wrong? As a man who has worked (some may say still works) in the McWorkforce, I would have to say no. The term does not explicitly refer to McDonalds, at least not since Coupland used it in Gen. X. The term is accurate in how it used in the popular culture. The McMisfortune of McDonalds is that name of their corporate empire is McMemorable and easy to make a McMockery of. Funny, I don't seem to recall Bill gates and Microsoft getting upset and complaining when Coupland's book Microserfs hit the shelves. (I couldn't find anything on a search just now either) Maybe if McDonalds buys out Microsoft and relaunches it as McMicrosoft we'll see some action?
As for the term being demeaning to its workers, get real. Service industry jobs are looked down upon by everyone, especially those of us who have had to work them. If McD's really wants to change the way McJobs are perceived then maybe they should take a page out of Costco's book - an enormously profitable company who pay their employees a living wage and offer a whole array of benefits to work jobs that would be considered to be crap jobs anywhere else. Most of the people I knew who worked at McDonalds while I was in high school were laid off as soon as they turned 18, so McD's wouldn't have to pay them a higher wage. how much are the retirees and recent immigrants being paid? What benefits and perks are available to the employees? Read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation if you care to learn more.
Meanwhile, I have some other suggestions for the dictionary: McWhiners, McSuck-holes, McWeasles.


Blogger tom sheepandgoats said...

The term is catchy, so it's going to endure. It's the "Mc" part. How can one reist adding stuff to it, just like you did in your concluding suggestions?

As Generation X jobs go, however, McDonald's probably rates pretty well, or at least, these jobs can get a lot worse than what you find at Mickey D. It's a shame the derisive term can't be associated with one of the really egregious outfits.

03 April, 2007 16:09  

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