Thursday, May 31, 2007

The McFacts About McJobs

Language is one of the best examples of a spontaneous human order. It occurs naturally. It quickly adapts to new circumstances. It is not the result of any one person's conscious design. And it stubbornly resists political tampering.

Nevertheless, the temptation to intervene in the natural order of language often proves irresistible, whether for political or other reasons. Consider what the editors at the Oxford English Dictionary have done to the word "McJob." The OED defines "McJob" as a dead-end job for an overqualified candidate who can't find something better.

The OED claims to be objectively documenting how people use the word. However, there are at least three documented uses of "McJob." Two are positive, and only one is negative. Yet, the OED never mentions the positive usages.

According to John Blundell, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs:

" a decade of studying McJobs I have found three different definitions. McJob was first used in Los Angeles in 1985 when a franchise holder adapted his restaurant so that disabled people could work there. So the earliest definition would be "a job specially created by the world's most admired food service company at great cost to give disabled people opportunities not normally available to them."Then there is the pejorative McJob as in the dead end label and finally there is the positive McJob as in McJobbers actually go further in life than their peers."

In choosing to feature only the negative definition, could the editors of the OED be guilty of an anti-American, anti-business bias? Even if they are innocent of political bias, they are certainly ignoring the career opportunities that stretch before every entry-level McDonald's employee. Every shift has a supervisor. Every supervisor has a manager. Every manager has a store. Every store belongs to a franchisee. Every franchisee works with corporate headquarters. Eventually, there are senior management positions, a CEO, and the board of directors. All of these can be reasonably called "McJobs."

In other words, there are no dead end jobs, only dead end imaginations. It is disheartening to find them at the esteemed OED.

For an analysis of the benefits of a McJob, check out John Blundell's paper McJob, McCheque, McWonderful.

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