Idiom: gnomes of Zurich: little gnomes sitting over ticker tapes in Zurich (antedating 1956 March 7)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Jan 28 19:17:40 UTC 2010

Teh word "gnome" in itself was surprisingly popular among the writers for the Guardian, but Proquest can find it only twice connected with Zurich.
Glorious reawakening or a slow death for the DEA?
WILLIAM DAVIS Financial Editor. The Guardian (1959-2003). London (UK): Aug 30, 1967. p. 8 (1 page)

Matthew Norman. The Guardian (1959-2003). London (UK): Jul 11, 1995. p. 15

On the other hand, "gnome", limited to 1955-1957 turns up 22 matches, most of which seem unlikely.  (REFUSED PERMISSION TO MARRY MIDGET; Girl "Will Wait" The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959). Manchester (UK): Sep 21, 1955)
"It included all those clever little financial gnomes, sitting by their tape-machines in Zurich and Paris and Amsterdam and New York."
The Demise of Mr. Butskell.  Our Political Correspondent. The Observer (1791- 2003). Oct 30, 1955. p. 9

"gnome and (finance or financial or banker)" actually turns up 700 matches from before 1955, the earliest from 1841.  However, if I try to move to the second page of results, or the last, Proquest shuts down.  "I've done enough, go away".  Useless system.  Buggy enough to have been created by Microsoft.  Jesus.
Outwitting the god-damned system by working backwards, I find that there was a French manufacturing company called Gnome et Rhone, and Harold Nicholson used the expression "gnomes and maxims".  I got back to 1935.  Others can check 1841-1934.  As Proquest says, "I've done enough, go away".


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

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