Figure Name gnome
Source Bullinger (1898) ("gnome; or, quotation"); Johnson (1903) ("quotations")
Earliest Source
Synonyms quotation, noema (pl. noemata), chreia, sententia
Etymology gno'-mee. Gr. "knowledge, understandingl;" also "a means of knowing" from gnomai "to know"
Type None
Linguistic Domain

1. Hence, the term Gnome is given to the citation of brief, sententious, profitable sayings expressive of a universal maxim or sentiment which appertains to human affairs, cited as well-known, or as being of general acceptance, but without quoting the author's name... A Gnome, however, differs from a Proverb in this: that every Proverb is a Gnome, but every Gnome is not necessarily a Proverb. A Gnome is, properly speaking, a quotation... (Bullinger, 767)

2. Quotations.—A skilled proofreader knows that nearly every quotation he comes upon in the course of his work is in some respect a misquotation, and he never passes a quotation without verifying it, if
possible. There are notable instances of famous quotations that are always misquoted... Sometimes a pithy quotation is either robbed of its meaning or belittled by a slight change of the words or their arrangement. (Johnson, 238-240)


1. Acts 1:16. -Peter, quoting Ps. 41:9 (10), says, "This Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of David, spake before concerning Judas." Observe, that while David spake, the words were not his, but "the words of the Holy Ghost." (Bullinger, 769)

2. Thus, the last line of Milton's Lycidas is

To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new,

but—probably because fields makes an alliteration with fresh—it is persistently quoted

To-morrow to fresh fields and pastures new.

As fields and pastures are almost identical, Milton could not have written fields. The famous line in George Berkeley's poem On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America is

Westward the course of empire takes its way.

But it is seldom quoted otherwise than

Westward the star of empire takes its way.

This erroneous version, used as a motto, was stamped in gold on the cover of the original edition of George Bancroft's History of the United
States, and that probably was what gave it vogue. Hamlet's declaration that he is "to the manner born" is persistently quoted as "to the manor
born," a mistake that implies ignorance of the context. He says:

To my mind—though I am native here,
And to the manner born—it is a custom
More honored in the breach than the observance.

If we read it "to the manor bom," we make a tautology, a mere repetition of the idea in "I am native here," and we also obscure the argument, which is. Though I have been accustomed all my life to this
manner of celebrating obsequies, I do not like it. Furthermore, Hamlet was born, not to a mere manor, but to a kingdom.

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Last Editor Ioanna Malton
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