In The Colour of Magic, on page 46 of my copy, Twoflower says this word:


What term is being referred to above?

It seems to be like “in-sewer-ants-policy”, i.e. a term that they don’t have a word for in the language (“insurance policy”), but I can’t figure out what it’d be.

I asked two people who couldn’t figure it out, either.

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    Maybe provide a bit more context for this? – JMac Apr 24 '19 at 19:23
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    @JMac - Additional context isn't really needed when you've read the book. – Valorum Apr 24 '19 at 19:32
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    @Valorum I had read this part of the book and couldn't remember what it was referring to without seeing the answers. It seems strange to me. Does Twoflowers actually say "Reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits?" (doesn't seem right) or was that something Rincewind was thinking after Twoflowers tries to explain to him what he does? – JMac Apr 24 '19 at 19:37
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    @JMac - Rincewind always transliterates Twoflower's speech into Morporkian. Twoflower is saying "echo-gnomics" – Valorum Apr 24 '19 at 21:21
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    @Randal'Thor yes – Quasi_Stomach Apr 25 '19 at 20:01

The word is "echo-gnomics" ("economics")

An echo is a reflected sound; gnomes live underground.

Etymologically, "gnomes" [mythology] are described as "a legendary race of human-like beings, usually imagined as short and possibly bearded males, who inhabit the inner parts of the earth and act as guardians of mines, mineral treasure, etc." (Source: wiktionary)

Apparently I've played too much D&D where gnomes aren't specifically tied to the underground.

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    And here I thought gnomes dwelt in gardens! – ruakh Apr 24 '19 at 19:28
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    Those are gnomish felons, @ruakh. Gardens are the penal colonies of the gnome race, much like Australia was for Britain at one point. The bright clothing is both a punishment and a guard against escape. – Paul Apr 25 '19 at 10:47
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    In D&D, gnomes have night vision and live in burrows, so they are pretty tied to underground. Are you mistaking them for halflings? – Matthieu M. Apr 25 '19 at 11:44

Rincewind tries his hand at a better translation later in the book (emphasis added):

Bloody hell, he thought. He’s alive! Me too. Who’d have thought it? Perhaps there is something in this reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits? It was a cumbersome phrase. Rincewind tried to get his tongue around the thick syllables that were the word in Twoflower’s own language.
“Ecolirix?” he tried. “Ecro-gnothics? Echo-gnomics?”
That would do. That sounded about right.

As with 'insurance', the concept of 'economics' (a reflected sound is an echo, underground spirits are gnomes) is largely unheard of in that part of the disc. Rincewind describes it as 'financial wizardry' (emphasis added):

“Well, my point is, you see, that gold also has its sort of magical field. Sort of financial wizardry. Echo-gnomics.” Rincewind giggled.

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    Might be worth pointing out that echo-gnomics would be pronounced economics, something that wouldn't be immediately obvious to people fortunate enough to have been raised speaking languages with rational spelling. – terdon Apr 24 '19 at 22:46
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    While a fair point, in my accent at least, echo-gnomics and economics sound quite different! – Two-Bit Alchemist Apr 25 '19 at 17:55
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    @Two-BitAlchemist - I really can't be held accountable for the way that you colonials butcher the English language – Valorum Apr 25 '19 at 18:01
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    @Glen_b - "Gnome" (in RP) would be 'nome' (rhymes with 'home'). "Gnom" (as in gnomon) would usually be 'nom' (rhymes with 'Tom'). – Valorum Apr 27 '19 at 8:22
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    Ah, I finally get it, you're saying the pronunciation of the "o" shifts when it becomes "-gnomics". – Glen_b Apr 27 '19 at 9:50

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