Opening the dictionary randomly, the word “Gnome” pops out and like many English words, the thing has several meanings. The most recent official meaning comes from France, about 300 years ago. This French meaning is probably known to young people these days. This French meaning is those funny little people who live inside the planet to guard the Earth’s treasure. Not me though. I thought gnomes were those colourful little statues of Irish folklore embedded in some people’s front gardens here a-bouts. Alas, these happy little statues are not apparently proper enough to be included in the Oxford English Dictionary. I suspect even fewer would know, a gnome can signify certain types of American birds. Surprisingly, this meaning was included in the dictionary. What types of birds, I am not sure; Indigenous America birds perhaps.
The older meaning comes from Greece dating back 400 years or so, meaning a maxim, a proverb, a saying, a thought or a general truism. The dictionary also lists a gnome as meaning an aphorism, which requires me to also look that word up, finding yet another word to mean, a maxim or a concise pithy statement of a principle. From a logical computer science point of view, having more than one meaning for a word is bad enough, but having two different words mean the same, that is completely reckless. Perhaps though, this older Greek definition of the word “Gnome”, exemplifies a gnome of an idea that the more recent usage of a word, replaces or at least obfuscates the original meanings. The old simply fade away in time and are redefined as needed by the young who inevitably inherit the earth with the passing of the old.
Examples of gnomes ( Greek meaning ) could be say, “Tis better to have loved and lost, than to have only lost” or another example would be “if it ant broken, don’t fix it”. An older example from legal history is “those that seek equity ( or fairness ) must also do equity”, whatever that means. Perhaps this means this other gnome that says that “those coming to seek equity from the law courts must come with clean hands ”. And pity anyone who is not perfect ( nor well off to afford a lawyer ) in the courts. Forget all about those Buddhist Mindfulness gnomes of perfection. This common law gnome of “clean hands” could be an example of cultural clashes of respective gnomes, though I suspect clashes could occur even within one cultural set of gnomes.
Now all these gnomes ( Greek meaning ) must have had someone invent them in the past, of course. So anyone who writes a gnome ( though typically no one knows who they were ) are nevertheless called, despite their reluctant absences, a “Gnomist”. Really, I kid you not ! So lets all get busy and become a gnomist before the next census.
© 2016, James Harry Burton. All rights reserved.