McDonald’s, probably one of the firm’s most often satirised (and with good reason I think) has stuck its corporate foot in its greasy mouth once again, demanding that the term ‘McJob‘ is removed from dictionaries such as the world-famous Oxford English Dictionary because it is derogatory and inaccurate. Obviously it isn’t enough for McD’s to use its corporate muscle on business practises, on farmers round the world, on protestors and others, it now wants to exert a measure of control over language. The OED and other dictionaries incorporate some modern phrases and colloquialisms when they become common in everyday speech for a decent period of time, hence why phrases like ‘McJob’ are included or ‘switch’ also gets included not only as a description of a debit card but also a verb, since the name of the car has become the verb to describe the action, “I’ll switch that, please.”
Launching this attempt is amazingly ill-advised – for starters it now raises the profile of the phrase the a far higher level than before, which rather defeats the purpose right away (that’s like firing someone because their blog allegedly brought the company into disrepute, thus launching the story into the world media and a far vaster audience – big companies seem utterly clueless about handling their image). The second is that by showing little understanding – or even a certain level of humour – over this McDonald’s has confirmed that the popular satirical image of them held by many critics (including me) is that they are an awful, monolithic, homogenous corporate entity that strictly enforces their ideology on staff but attempts to do so on the public. I suspect most people will more than likely side with a respected and loved institution of knowledge like the OED over Mickey D’s anyday of the week, although I also suspect most folks will be bemused at the whole thing and wondering why McD’s decided to make a mountain out a molehill that most folks never thought twice about before (way to go McDonald’s PR folks, you are really good at your jobs!).
Personally I haven’t been into one of this god-awful company’s dreadful eateries since the mid 80s. Long before I turned veggie and had nothing to eat there (I believe that’s different now, but back then it wasn’t) I stopped going to this lot because during Mayfest in Glasgow in the 80s there was a play by a small indy theatre group which satirised the fast food business. No company was named or identified, it was simply a play about life as a worker in a fast food joint, but McDonald’s threatened this tiny troupe with legal action because, as the world’s most successful fast food stuff-yer-gob emporiums they argued audiences would assume it was about them. I think had it gone to court they would have been laughed out since they had no grounds (they were never identified, no company was) and also because of a little thing called freedom of speech, but the small indy theatre group didn’t have a crew of high priced lawyers like McD’s and couldn’t afford to contest it – the play was pulled before the festival. It was a shameless and despicable bit of big biz bullying and I’ve never eaten in their stores (I refuse to call them restaurants) since then and never will. What I’ve learned over the years since in newspaper reports and books like Fast Food Nation have confirmed to me that they are not a business I’d ever give my money to and this latest pathetic attempt to control image adds to that feeling. Unfortunately masses of people will happily stuff themselves and their kids with their food several times a week, so they probably aren’t too bothered about me boycotting them for the last 20 years.