08 September 2008

Where do Gnomes come from?

After picking up a cute little autumn figurine (a gnome holding a cutsy ladybird), I wondered about the origins of the word 'gnome'.

Well, according to Dictionary.com, it could be mythical creatures that lived inside the soft mouldy bits of Earth or, this is funny, it could be a know-it-all where money matters are concerned.

I see that is how J.K.Rowling got idea for gnomes as bankers in the Potter series. Nice!

As for the etymology of the word itself, the site was not very clear. It seem to date back to the 18th Century where the word might be derived from Latin word gnomus.

Run along to Etymology Online and it gets weirder.

... from Fr. gnome, from L. gnomus, used 16c. in a treatise by Paracelsus, who gave the name pigmaei or gnomi to elemental earth beings, possibly from Gk. *genomos "earth-dweller."

I love this bit.

Garden figurines first imported to England late 1860s from Germany.

Who came up with this ingenuous plan? No one is complaining, least of all me with my brand new adorable gnome statue but nonetheless you do wonder about the business side arguments that led to this decision.

Of course I had to go look that up as well. According to Wiki, it was not a business maneuver as such but a shopping whim on the side of Sir Charles Isham.