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Gnoming it up

April 21, 2013

Last week I met a nephew of mine for a coffee near Queen Mary College in Mile End, where he’s studying history. He mentioned that he’d been in the library all day, and I said ‘Been gnoming it up, then?’ – at which he looked at me blankly. And then I realised that nobody uses this expression any more. In fact hardly anybody ever did. When I was at college, people who spent their days buried away in the library were known as gnomes – and so evolved the phrasal verb to gnome it up, meaning to study in the library. I suppose only a handful of people, for a brief period in the early 80s, actually said it; I’d forgotten that, and thought it was an expression in general usage. But what a pity that it isn’! I think I’m going to try to bring it into circulation. 

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