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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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November 11, 2003

Merriam-Webster Responds to McJob Controversy

Posted by Ernest Miller

I've spoken with Merriam-Webster's publicist and although he had no immediate comment as to why the term McJob was removed from the new word samples page (see, McWimps - Merriam-Webster Caving to McDonalds Threats), he did provide me the following statement:

SPRINGFIELD, MA., NOVEMBER 2003—Merriam -Webster Inc., publisher of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, stands by the accuracy and appropriateness of its definition for McJob:
“a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement”
Words qualify for inclusion in the dictionary because they are widely and commonly used in a broad range of carefully edited sources. For more than 17 years, “McJob” has been used as we are defining it in a broad range of publications, including The New York Times, U.S. News & World Report, Publishers Weekly, Rolling Stone, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, Ms., Harper’s, The New Republic, Utne Reader, The Vancouver Sun, Sunday Times of South Africa, and Queensland Australia’s Courier Mail.
In editing the Collegiate Dictionary, we bear in mind the guidance offered by Noah Webster that “the business of the lexicographer is to collect, arrange, and define, as far as possible, all the words that belong to a language, and leave the author to select from them at his pleasure and according to his judgment.” The English language is constantly changing and evolving, and it is the duty of Merriam-Webster editors to record and reflect these changes.

I'm glad to see this statement, but I still wonder about the removal of the word from the sample page.

In a related post, Dana Blankenhorn looks at the economics behind the phrase (McEconomics).


Merriam-Webster responds to the question of the removal of the word from the sampling page:

The "New Words Sampler" on the free site was not the Collegiate Dictionary--it was a marketing tool to promote the dictionary. "McJob" has not been removed from the Collegiate Dictionary, which can be found in print, CD-ROM, or online at Because people were confusing the content of the marketing piece with the full content of the Eleventh Edition of the Collegiate Dictionary, it is currently under revision; a new version will be restored soon online.

Hmmmm ...


Don't know why I misspelled Merriam "Mirriam", but I did. It is now corrected.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Freedom of Expression | Trademark


1. Joe on November 11, 2003 03:01 PM writes...

Sorry to be totally OT... but, when did it go from Merriam-Webster to Mirriam-Webster? Did I miss that? I think is just a typoed version of (or which is way easy for me to remember).

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2. Ernest Miller on November 11, 2003 04:26 PM writes...

My bad on the misspelling.

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3. Joe on November 11, 2003 05:33 PM writes...

You're so very good at everything else... we'll all give you misspellings! I just thought I had missed something important...

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