Tuesday, March 20, 2007

McLanguage control

Apparently McDonald's aren't too happy with the OED's definition of McJob:

"An unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the
expansion of the service sector."
Why do they take issue with that? Well, it's clear the definition is not exactly complimentary to a certain kind of career choice. But their main gripe? It's out of date.

The reason I'm drawing attention to it, other than being a linguistics nerd, is that McDonald's seem to have a very basic grasp of lexicography. Dictionaries are meant to represent the language that is spoken and used. They are constantly revised: new words are added regularly; meanings are adjusted; words become archaic and redundant. It's how we, you know, track and record language.

Trouble is, if I refer to a job as a McJob to you, you probably know what I'm trying to say as we both understand the connotations. McDonald's can't alter these just because it doesn't paint them in a good light. The definiton hasn't been chosen arbitrarily; it reflects the meaning that people intend and understand.

Mcdonald's have allegedly attempted to coin the optimistic term McProspects to reflect their understanding of the a career in the fastfood industry. Unfortunately, you cannot create a word, define it and then stick it in the dictionary. New words are coined daily, but they really have to catch on otherwise you'll just be talking to yourself.

A spokesperson for the Oxford English Dictionary says: "We monitor changes in the language and reflect these in our definitions, according to the evidence we find." Exactly.

On a different note, has anyone seen the Fast Food Nation film? It's due out here in a few weeks.

No comments: