THE GNOME ENCLATURE
RANGE: Infesting the ivied towers of High Mandarin academese, and cluttering the gutters of low slum argot (littered as they are with dropped g’s and h’s). From the obsolete cliches of the left, through the content-free platitudes of the center, to the terrifying buzz-word euphemisms of the right, wherever language is used to obfuscate, bore, or manipulate, the Gnome Enclature capers, coining his counterfeit phrases, circulating his inflated rhetoric, and generally debasing the value of the Word Hoarde.
HABITS: The Gnome Enclature is the spirit of language. It is he who sees to it that there are sufficient synonyms so that two persons may discuss the same topic without understanding one another. He is the reason that you say “tomato” and I say, “Solanum Lyopersicum,” for he dearly loves an obscure synonym, and inspires ostentatiously elegant variation. He heightens class distinctions— how can people who “take in a flick,” “go to the movies,” “see a picture,” “catch a show,” and “screen a film” possibly have anything to say to each other? He underscores regional differences—can people who order “a hoagie,” “a grinder,” “a hero,” and “a sub” still break bread together? He numbs us with euphemisms, as we go from “the prime of our lives” through “senior citizenship,” until, as “golden agers” in our “twilight years,” we “pass away,” and nobody knows, or cares, that we died. A prude, he has so ensnared us in double entendre and circumlocution that such words as “bath,” “rest,” “lounge,” and “powder” have come to mean “evacuation.” He has done some of his best work through the morally anaesthetized offices of the Defense Department (formerly, the War Department). For instance, should the START (formerly, SALT) talks enter an inoperative mode, opening a window of critical vulnerability, you and I might be impacted with a first strike of such significant megatonnage as to be terminated with extreme prejudice (at acceptable levels, mind you). The Gnome Enclature is beloved by such creatures as the Pentagorgons who delight in having a wide variety of words to describe the unthinkable with the degree of complexity such concepts deserve.
HISTORY: Gnome Enclatures delighted in the hostile polyglot nature of the first wave of European settlers, encouraging Dutch, French, Spanish, and English colonists to insist on the absolute primacy of their respective lingos. Each language survived, giving rise to endless regional squabbles and bickerings, and persist to this day— except for English, which finally ceased to be spoken in America during the Eisenhower administration.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: The Gnome Enclature is to be found in the vicinity of speech writers, DJs, game show hosts, doctors, RNs, funeral hall directors, civil service union bosses, Mafia-based contractors, Federal boondogglers, social scientists, and ΝΕΑ grant specialists. He can be seen peeping out between the lines of columns written by William Safire, Edwin Newman, and other mavens of pop etymology