Dictionary definitions that hurt

Not for the first time, MT finishes the week thinking that poor old McDonald's has probably now served its time as the chatterati's whipping boy. Hard on the heels of the outcry following the announcement that McD's was trialing Innocent smoothies in some of its stores - which some would have us believe is the equivalent of those saintly Innocent guys getting into bed with the prince of darkness - comes the great, and we fear pyrrhic, battle with the Oxford English Dictionary.

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Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

The fuss is about the inclusion of the word McJob with the definition ‘an unstimulating low-paid job with few prospects'. McDonald's says this definition is now ‘out of date and insulting', and claims that a survey found that 69% of the UK population agree it needs updating. They also say, with good reason, that it's insulting to the 67,000 Brits who work in their stores learning some good lessons about teamwork and customer service in the process.

No less a figure than the government skills envoy Sir Digby Jones - who has almost certainly gone large on a quarter-pounder a few times - has led an angry protest campaign with a letter to the FT.

We can understand why McDonald's is hacked off, but the chain is picking the wrong battle. It's like arguing with Moses on the lexicology of the tablets as he brought them down from the mountain. Language is an uncontrollable, Hydra-headed thing and it will take more than an energetic PR team to change the message. It's like the population of men called Dick going on a march to complain about people taking their name in vain by using expressions like ‘What a dick!'

Maybe one day McD's will stand up and defend itself on the simple grounds that it has fed a lot of time-starved members of the population with food that is clean and wholesome and provides well-needed calories - an Oxfam for the developed world. And, of course, you can get a salad there now.

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