If the English language cannot describe it, just make it all up…
Is it just happening to me, or does the DWP often resort to gibberish to avoid answering questions from the public?
I have noticed a worrying trend in the way DWP call centre staff are evolving their own new language to avoid answering questions.
I suspected it could be that recruitment standards are dropping in the DWP. Staff with higher IQs might expect higher salaries. In these austere times it could be robust Coalition policy to reduce costs by employing those with a lower (cheaper) skill set.
But on further consideration I actually think that’s not it. In fact the evolution of an entirely new DWP vocabulary is being fed by the creative instincts of educated individuals who have worked out that nothing confuses the public more than gobbledegook.
Let me give a couple of real examples which have been generated by just one interaction with the DWP concerning the descriptions attached to payments in my bank statements.
These examples concern one truly original word, never before seen in dictionary English — and an entirely new meaning ascribed to a new word with an etymological root already in the Oxford English dictionary.
The two words are: “numonic” and “clericalised.” Numonic is pronounced like pneumonia but with an “ic” ending. Clericalised is pronounced as you would expect.
This is how the word game occurred. I contacted the DWP to ask that they correctly identify payments in my bank statement because other government departments were challenging me about what benefits I receive.
I am on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), but my bank statement specified the payment as DWP JSA. This infers I am actually on Jobseeker’s Allowance. When I asked why the description had changed from the previously-used DWP ESA, I was told: “Don’t worry. It’s just a numonic.” I responded by saying that my local council were questioning whether I was on JSA or ESA because of this. I was told: “Just tell them it’s a numonic”
I assumed that the agent’s vocabulary was vastly superior to mine and accepted this. However, afterwards I found “numonic” is entirely a made-up word. It does not exist in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Okay, now to “clericalised.” I asked why a number of payments were appearing on my bank statement described helpfully as “NO FURTHER DETAILS.” I explained this was causing mayhem with the council because it looked like I had an additional, undeclared and possibly fraudulent income.
The DWP agent said she couldn’t help with that because though she knew the payments had been made correctly, she couldn’t intervene to re-define them because they were “clericalised.” Now at the time I again bowed to the undoubted superiority of the DWP agent’s understanding of English. On the agent’s say-so I accepted this meant that because there had been a manual input by a clerk at another office she would have to refer this to them to sort.
However, I later found the word “clericalise” is related to a word in the dictionary: “clericalism,” which is defined as:
“A policy of upholding the power of the clergy” and “the power of the clergy esp. when excessively strong.”
So it would appear that the DWP has all the rights ascribed to the Christian Church in its ability to interpret God’s will…
Once again, I bow my head in all humility to my betters.