Tim McDaniel tmcd at
Fri Oct 18 17:50:19 PDT 1996

On Fri, 18 Oct 1996, Leslie Miller <miller at> wrote:
> Actually, just for the record, it's "Gnomon Vale,"

That was the second submission; the first was "Gnomevale".  As for
what they really want I didn't know.

> my understanding is that the name has nothing to do with "gnomes,"
> but rather with the name found on the Heavener runestone. ... they
> desided to name their valley after the name inscribed on the
> runestone.  ...  I know the common mistake of assuming that they
> intended some connection to gnomes is a rather sore spot with some
> of them. :-)

The complete information they gave on their first submission form was

    "- Gnome is found on p. 487 of _Webster's Dictionary_ no date
     - Vale is found on p. 341 of A. D. Mill's _A Dictionary of
       English Place Names_ dating to 1357.
     The meaning of the name is most important."

"Webster's Dictionary" is a generic term -- anyone can use the name
"Webster" in connection with a dictionary, much like "aspirin" (which
used to be a trademark).  To pick one, my _Webster's New Collegiate
Dictionary_. Merriam-Webster, 1977 ed., defines it only as

    - "an ageless and often deformed dwarf ..."
    - "an elemental being in the theory of Paracelcus that inhabits

- the submission form justified the name based on a dictionary
  definition only, making no mention of a personal name
- only the "earth spirit" definition could possibly make sense here
  (Valley of the Pithy Sayings?)
- the influence of fantasy literature on the formation of the SCA
  and on its members
- the average knowledge of onomastics (and why should we expect most
  of the populace to be knowledgable about naming practices, any more
  than, say, armoring or dance?)
I think it was not unreasonable to suppose that they meant the "dwarf"
meaning, and that the second submission was (as is common in SCA
heraldic submissions) an attempt to get something registerable that
sounded like what they really wanted.

The story Gunhilda presents would have been a great help.  We could
have looked into the source and researched the name on it.

In case anyone is interested, here's some of what Master Talan Gwynek
had to say about the second submission.  He has an unusually large
number of source books and a rather large knowledge base, though I
sometimes find him a bit hard to follow (esp. the last sentence
below).  Again, I suggest they contact him (scott at
for lots of good info.

    If they want the sound, I've nothing useful to suggest.  If they
    like the combination Gn, however, there are possibilities.  Ekwall
    thinks that Gnosall (Gnodeshall 1199, Gnoushale 1222) may be from
    Old English gnea 'niggardly'; Mills says that the first element is
    uncertain and is probably an Old English or Scandinavian personal
    name.  (The second element of Gnosall is Old English halh 'a nook,
    corner of land, water meadow'.)  If the first element is a
    personal name, I can find no plausible candidate for it except
    possibly Kn<u'>tr, which is in record in England as Knod (Fellows
    Jensen, s.n. Kn<u'>tr); (ibid., o129) notes that k is sometimes
    replaced by g, as in 13th c. Getelli for Ketill.  (This probably
    represents scribal error, C being written for K and then
    erroneously replaced by the very similar G.)  A Scandinavian
    personal name would of course combine well with Old Norse dalr
    'valley'; if this is indeed the source of Gnodes in Gnodeshall,
    Gnodesdale would be a reasonable enough Anglo-Norse place-name
    from c.1200.

If "Gnome" is indeed the name on the Heavener Runestone, that's
interesting new information.  In later mail, however, Sir Kief notes
that the stone's authenticity is questioned.  If there are no known
Scandinavian names that are like "Gnome", I would suppose that that
might weigh against it -- but I have little knowledge on the subject,
and would defer to Talan.

The moral of the story: if you're making a name submission and you
check the box labelled "the meaning is most important", please let us
know what you think it means!  If "the sound is most important",
please let us know what you think it sounds like.  If you can find
other similar examples, please provide them.  We can't help you with
what you don't tell us.

Daniel de Lincoln
                             Tim McDaniel
                        Reply-To: tmcd at
    mcdaniel at is wrong tool.  Never use this.

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