OED chickens out over 'McJob'

In what might be described as a case of McCensorship, the Oxford English Dictionary has been advised by lawyers not to include the word "McJob" in its next edition, writes Mark Rowe.

The libel victory last week by hamburger giant McDonald's, over two penniless environmental campaigners who attacked its reputation in a leaflet, has made the OED wary that the multi-national may seek to flex its muscles in other areas.

"McJob", to the great displeasure of the fast food chain, is widely used as a euphemism for any form of dead-end, low-paid employment. The OED believes the word is in common enough usage to be included within its esteemed covers.

The OED says it has yet to make a decision on "McJob", but lawyers have suggested it drop the word on legal grounds.

OED Chief Editor John Simpson said he intended to use the word in future, but it would not appear in the next 3,000-word supplementary edition, due out at the end of the summer. "We have taken legal advice, since we are aware that companies may be unhappy and object to the tone of such words," he said. "To withdraw any word is against our policy. We have not yet made a decision."

In the McLibel case, McDonald's was awarded pounds 60,000. The judge ruled that the company had been libelled by most of the allegations in a leaflet, What's Wrong With McDonald's? But he found it was justified in accusing McDonald's of paying low wages to its workers and being responsible for cruelty to some animals used in its products.