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.

  • 5
    Maybe provide a bit more context for this?
    – JMac
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 19:23
  • 8
    @JMac - Additional context isn't really needed when you've read the book.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 19:32
  • 3
    @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
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 19:37
  • 8
    @JMac - Rincewind always transliterates Twoflower's speech into Morporkian. Twoflower is saying "echo-gnomics"
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 21:21
  • 4
    @Randal'Thor yes Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 20:01

2 Answers 2


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.

  • 6
    And here I thought gnomes dwelt in gardens!
    – ruakh
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 19:28
  • 18
    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
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 10:47
  • 1
    In D&D, gnomes have night vision and live in burrows, so they are pretty tied to underground. Are you mistaking them for halflings? Commented Apr 25, 2019 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.

  • 35
    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
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 22:46
  • 4
    While a fair point, in my accent at least, echo-gnomics and economics sound quite different! Commented Apr 25, 2019 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
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 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
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 8:22
  • 1
    Ah, I finally get it, you're saying the pronunciation of the "o" shifts when it becomes "-gnomics".
    – Glen_b
    Commented Apr 27, 2019 at 9:50

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