Was Ray Kroc a prescriptivist?

Ten years ago, an improbable scuffle between McDonald’s and Merriam-Webster over the meaning of the word, “McJob”, culminated when the McDonald’s CEO wrote them a fairly nasty open letter.

In the letter, Jim Cantalupo writes:

[Y]our definition is completely inappropriate and absolutely demeaning for all the dedicated men and women who have been, or are currently employed in a restaurant. This includes teens getting their first employment experience, to parents supporting a family, seniors supplementing their income and achieving greater purpose and fulfillment, persons with disabilities entering the workplace, and 900,000 restaurants nationwide employing millions and millions of people from local communities.

Merriam-Webster published a definition portraying the familiar usage, as is their wont; namely that a “McJob” is “a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement”.

They didn’t publish anything concerning how the word ought to be used, or what the word ought to mean, because only cranky high school English teachers engage in this peculiar and largely pointless activity. And even if they did, the affront to workers isn’t obvious. The affront to employers that offer such jobs, on the other hand, is clear enough.

If you’re looking for an education in spin, fallacy, and self-deception, Cantalupo’s letter is an excellent place to start.