June 22nd, 2005

zurich angel

The gnomes of Zurich

This is a question that has been bothering me since I arrived in Switzerland: Who or what are the gnomes of Zurich? So, this afternoon, bored as I was by reading Sociology papers on symbolic interactionism, I decided to find out!

I came, I saw, I googled. And the first result looked promising, but turned out to be fantasy (literally!)

The first hit took me to a wargaming site which is looking for players to join the "Gnomes of Zuerich", a guild within the game world of Warcraft.

The next hit took me a little closer. Conspiracy theory time, and I quote from the site:

One of the most plausible (?) theories I have heard on the Kennedy assassination relates to a speech JFK made shortly before his demise, in which he said he was going to expose "the gnomes of Zurich". The "gnomes of Zurich" is a euphemism for the ultra-secretive and powerful Illuminatae, a group of very very rich and powerful businessmen. They are supposed to have incredible control of the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund). They are strongly linked with the Masons (not all Masons, you understand, but with the highest levels of that organization). The theory is that the Illuminatae had Kennedy killed before he could expose them or otherwise harm their mission, whatever that may be.

From the same site, this really made me laugh:

There are very few Gnomes in Zurich and those who are there, have nothing to do with banking or other finance industries. The real 'Gnomes of Zurich' actually work with Swiss chocolate and are more correctly called Toblergnomes.

Finally, I found my answer on wikipedia. Here comes their definitive and helpful answer..

Gnomes of Zurich is a disparaging term for Swiss bankers. The term was coined by the British Labour Party politician Harold Wilson on November 12, 1956 when he accused Swiss bankers of pushing the pound down on the foreign exchanges by speculation.

The word "gnome" is said to derive from the New Latin gnomus and ultimately from the Greek gnosis, meaning knowledge. According to myth, gnomes hoarded secret knowledge just as they hoarded treasure.

Often featured in Germanic fairy tales, including those by the Brothers Grimm, the gnome is usually a creature living deep underground and guarding buried treasure, resembling a small gnarled old man (accordingly Swiss bankers are sometimes disparagingly referred to as the Gnomes of Zurich).

So, my curiousity is now assauged, and there's no excuse not to go back to my dissertation. Watch this LiveJournal Space for more Zurich and Switzerland puzzlers!