Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A new word in the English language

Language, as I am sure all readers of this blog will already know, is constantly evolving - and none more so than English. I was reading an article in the paper the other day which reported how many new words had been added to the language in the past year - or maybe it was the past ten years: I forget which. I have also forgotten how many new words were claimed - it ran to hundreds if not thousands - but the number doesn't really matter. One of the (fairly recent) new words consists of just three letters, all of them capitals - CRB. Of course, CRB is really a set of initials much like BBC, but it seems to have been accepted as both a noun and a verb even though the initials are, in truth, themselves merely an abbreviation of the full term.

The letters CRB stand for Criminal Records Bureau, an office which was established to maintain the criminal records of the entire population of England and probably Wales. I can't say if Scotland is included but I suspect not and Northern Ireland is almost certainly excluded: both Scotland and Northern Ireland have different justice systems.

Some years ago our Government was concerned to provide greater protection for vulnerable persons and legislation was enacted whereby anybody working with such people would need to be checked. This requirement covered (and still covers) both paid workers and volunteers such as Scout leaders, youth football team coaches etc. The check costs money - £32 seems vaguely familiar - which has to be paid by the employer although at least volunteers (who are not paid for their work) are checked free of charge. It doesn't help that a CRB check undertaken by one organisation cannot be considered by another, which will have to make its own check. For example, I have been checked by the Lions. As a service, several members of the club drive blind people to their social meetings - and we have all been checked again by the blind association.

As with any broad-brush approach, there has been confusion. For example, exactly who is to be considered vulnerable? Children, obviously, and those who are mentally incapacitated. The blind and the elderly. But just how much sight should remain and how elderly should an elderly person be before either is considered vulnerable? This is where the ages-old principle of "reasonableness" applies - and that is a subjective point of view until tested in the courts.

The confusion also extends to who actually need to be checked. Again, there are obvious examples: school teachers and nursing home employees are but two. But what about Father Christmas in the department store? He is never alone with children (and they no longer sit on his lap just in case he is a pervert) who are always accompanied by a parent (or other responsible adult). Does he really need to have a piece of paper confirming that he has never been convicted in a court? And what about the hospital car driver, himself an elderly man, who is required to be checked because he collects elderly patients - many of whom are actually younger than the driver?

Some people and organisations, as is only to be expected, do more than just cover themselves. There have been a number of examples quoted in the paper recently of what could been considered as over-zealous checking. A school governor who has been a governor for many years and who attends governors' meetings in the evenings when the school is closed to children and who would, in any case, never be in the presence of children without being accompanied by a teacher. Then there was the lady who arranges flowers in church. Just who was thought to be vulnerable to her was not made clear.

But all this is getting away from the fact that CRB has become a word in its own right. As a verb - "You'll need to be CRBed" - and as a noun - "Have you got a CRB?". (It's pronounced as the three initials - see are bee.) Now, I'm as happy as the next person to see new words accepted into the language, but I do think they should be more than just three consonants always written in capital letters. But then, I'm just an old curmudgeon. I wonder when that word was invented?


Uncle Skip, said...

Until now I thought it meant Charging Rhinoceros Body, which is a derogatory term for a fat person.
And I would have told you that my ex-brother in law invented it in 1975.

Brighton Pensioner said...

Isn't it just amazing what one can learn on the Interwotsit?