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Dictionaries tell what it means to work for fast food

With national unemployment now at 6.4 percent, with 2-million unemployed looking for work for 27 weeks or more, what better time to talk about one of my favorite words?

McJob. "A low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement."

It's one of the timely business and economic words added to the latest editions of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate and Oxford English dictionaries.

Poor McDonald's. The fast-food, cheap-labor, burger-slinging giant so dominates our social scene that its "Mc" prefix became 1990s shorthand for anything perceived as dead end (as in a McDonald's job) or lacking substance (USA Today used to be called "McPaper" for its short stories and cheery spin).

Now McJob is a modern classic among the thousands of new words added to Merriam-Webster's 11th edition. So much so that we often hear another McDonald's-derived phrase _ "You want fries with that?" _ to suggest someone is stuck in a low-skilled job.

That's the beauty of language. Meanings morph to reflect current events and social trends. Business words change, too, including these mostly familiar words just chosen to appear in the latest Merriam-Webster:

BUBBLE: As in the burst Internet bubble.

DEAD CAT BOUNCE: A brief and insignificant recovery in stock prices after a steep decline; from the facetious notion that even a dead cat would bounce slightly if dropped from a sufficient height.

GOLDEN HANDCUFFS: Special benefits offered to an employee as an inducement to continue service and discourage jumping to another job.

DOT-COMMER: A person who owns or works for a dot-com business.

KILLER APP: A computer application of such great value that it assures the success of the technology; or, a feature that in itself makes something worth having.

DEAD PRESIDENTS: U.S. currency.

Not to be outdone, the hefty (20 volumes and 22,000 pages) Oxford English Dictionary last month weighed in with its own selection of business (loosely defined) and tech terms. Among them: bazillionaire and gazillionaire; day trading; drag-and-drop; tech-head, and _ thanks, Disney _ imagineering.

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Enron, current symbol of all that went wrong with Corporate America, still owns half of a prominent company in Florida. Florida Gas Transmission operates a vast, multistate network of natural gas pipelines that crisscrosses western Florida and the Tampa Bay area. But now Enron has created a new company called CrossCountry Energy to serve as the co-owner of Florida Gas Transmission.

Publicity-wise, Florida Gas no longer will have to admit that it's part of Enron. Enron actually set up CrossCountry to hold its valuable gas pipeline assets because the new company will be handed over to Enron creditors as part of a plan for the infamous Houston energy corporation to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

If all goes as planned, CrossCountry eventually will be taken public as a separate company. Enron creditors are expected to take possession of CrossCountry in early 2004.

Short takes

CAN SHE REVIVE SHELLS? Leslie Christon began working in restaurants at age 18 while in college. She waited tables and later grilled steaks for a Steak & Ale. Come Monday, she starts her new job as CEO and president of Tampa's Shells Seafood Restaurants. Shells was an up-and-comer in the early '90s. But it became grossly overextended, service suffered and the company's stock tanked. Christon _ who boasts management stints at such chains as Red Lobster, El Chico, On the Border and Sutton Place Gourmet (which includes New York's famed Balducci's food stores) _ has her work cut out for her. Shells' former CEO, David Head, resigned last month to join a then-unidentified competitor. We now know where Head's heading: to become CEO of Dallas-based Romacorp, which operates 43 Tony Roma's restaurants and franchises 215. . . .

OUTBACK VS. CALIFORNIA: ah Tampa's Outback Steakhouse Inc. and Orlando's Darden Restaurants Inc. are two of 15 restaurant chains that California says violated state rules by failing to warn diners and workers about carcinogenic mercury and related compounds in certain seafood. In California, always ahead of the consumer protection curve, Proposition 65 says a warning sign must be posted where food is served. It reads more like a tobacco warning: "Warning: Chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm may be present in foods or beverages sold or served here." Yummm. . . .

AT SARASOTA BANK, IT'S BEEN A GOOD RIDE for 11 years. The local bank is selling itself to Alabama's Colonial BancGroup in a stock swap valued at $40.5-million. Sarasota Bank's Christine Jennings, a rare female CEO in banking circles, says it was time to sell or find new capital for expansion. In '92, Jennings told me her role as bank president helped the community bank stand out in a crowd. "That's one of the reasons so many people got involved in the bank," she said then. Jennings, who started as a bank teller at age 17, will stay on as Colonial's president in Sarasota County. . . .

DENVER THIS WEEK MOURNED its losing bid for the NCAA Women's Basketball Final Four contests. The 2008, 2009 and 2010 contests went to Tampa, St. Louis and San Antonio, Texas, respectively. Noted the Denver Post: All three cities had one significant advantage over Denver: a domed stadium.

_ Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigauxsptimes.com or (727) 893-8405.

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