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McDonald's Sues American Heritage Over "McGirlfriend"
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OAK BROOK, IL - "A girlfriend taken to fill a void after a break up; A throw-away; A girlfriend with little or no appeal. Syn: Plain Jane" That's the way American Heritage Dictionary defines its new word, "McGirlfriend". And McDonald's says it is putting its oversize-shoe down over the issue.

"We own the 'Mc' prefix in the commercial environment. Our latest sandwich is marketed on that -- the McGriddle. Can Burger King sell a McGriddle? Or a McAnything? No, of course not. So why can a publisher capitalize on our hard-earned name?" asked Ronald Peark, counsel for the fast-food chain.

"It's important to recognize," responded Emil Hill, editor of American Heritage's reference works, "that we don't just make this stuff up. A dictionary is like a newspaper. We don't make up the words, we report on their use. When 'gay' meant 'happy', that's what we said it meant. Now it has another meaning, and we are reporting that. The 'Mc' prefix has come into common usage and it's our duty to report it."

Finding an example of "McGirlfriend" in the wild is not a simple task. Searching recent news papers and magazines yielded nothing, and searching on popular Internet search engines revealed only a few meager references. An informal poll found that none of the one hundred people we surveyed had ever used or heard used the term "McGirlfriend". Ninety-five of them agreed that they immediately associated the term with McDonald's.

"The law on this is heavily in McDonald's favor," says legal expert Jeff Mitton, "all they have to show is that inclusion of this term is likely to improve or could seem to have the effect of improving the sales of the dictionary, and also show that the 'Mc' prefix is only associated with their trademark. If they can establish that, they win."
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