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THERE is a gap, says the think-tank Healthcare 2000, "between resources and demand". How much more compelling its report would have been if it had come out straight and declared that the NHS was short of the cash it needed for the job! But no, it had to go for abstractions like resources and demand, the vocabulary of officialdom, which ordinary people are wary of.

It's not that resources is an inaccurate word for what it was trying to say. The Old French resoudre meant to rise again, and a resource is a means of supplying a deficiency (and thence also "a reserve") - just what we are told the NHS lacks. Indeed, some leader writers have used the same word in commenting on the report. The trouble is, though, that it's not specific enough. Resource means too many different things. It's being used so widely and so often that we've stopped listening to it. Businessmen can't leave it alone, babbling away about resource industries, resource time, resource allocation and, sometimes, when they want to make themselves clear, pecuniary resources. Management experts have even made a verb out of it: "We are inadequately resourced", they cry.

Since writing the above I saw an Evening Standard leader that spoke of " `resources' (that is, money)". Hurrah! But next minute it spoilt everything by pleading for "extra remu- neration" for some teachers. Of all the terms for money, or pay, why this? ("Remuneration! Oh, that's the word for three farthings", as Costard says in Love's Labour's Lost.) Actually when teachers talk about money they don't usually say "resources", which for them means other things, such as visual aids, as found in a learning resource centre. A learning resource can be what they fall back on when there is no money for books - photocopies, for example. Failing those, they have only their inner resources.

Nicholas Bagnall