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Merriam-Webster explains disappearing McJob

And today, Ronald is wearing a ... sad face

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Merriam-Webster is revising a web page for its Collegiate Dictionary after a McDonalds executive complained about the inclusion of the word 'McJob'. The publisher insisted that the two events are not related, and told us today that the word remained in the dictionary and would be restored online.

An eagle eyed Swede noticed that following a AP report at the weekend, the 'New Words' page for the dictionary had been amended. The reference to McJob had been commented out, making it invisible to the casual web surfer. The HTML source code reveals that the reference has been encapsulated within the comment <--- Pulled 11/10/03 ? >.

But that's not the dictionary entry, Merriam-Webster spokesman Arthur Bicknell told us today.

"People were confusing the marketing web page with the dictionary," he said. "McJob has not been removed." It's not in the free dictionary but it in the Premium subscription edition which can be purchased separately, or which buyers of the printed edition receive.

"We're revising the marketing page, beginning with McJob," Bicknell told us. "Eventually the whole page will be revised."

In an open letter, McDonald's Corporation CEO Jim Cantalupo complained about the inclusion of the term, which is defined as "low paying and dead end work". He described it as "a slap in the face to the twelve million people in the restaurant industry (McDonald's insists on calling its outlets restaurants) and cited one thousand franchisees who had risen through the ranks from lowly dead-end burger flipping jobs to become dead-end managers.

A spokesman told AP that McJOBS™ is a registered trade mark. Indeed it is, and one with an interesting history. McDonald's first registered the term on May 16 1984, as a name and image for "training handicapped persons as restaurant employees". But the trademarked lapsed in February 1992, and was declared 'Dead' by the United States Patent Office. Following the publication of Douglas Coupland's smash Generation X in paperback edition in October 1992 (the book first appeared in 1991), which popularized the term, McDonald's restored the trademark.

"If there's a trademarks issue it's with the plural, not McJob," Bicknell told us.

Which suggests that the threat of litigation still hangs in the air. All the more reason, we think for Ronald McDonald to start his own weblog. Can you help us help Ronald? ®

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