A gnome, like many other tacky things, is only to be used ironically. If you acknowledge that something is tacky, you may then use it in homage to the tackiness. You may use it to mock others who are tacky. Once you think the tacky thing is actually cool, you are lost.
I thought this was generally accepted as truth. It is like stating that a movie such as "Bring it On" is awesome. Yes, it is awesome. But only if you acknowledge that it is crap. It is awesome crap, but still -- in the grand scheme of things -- it is not a good movie. However, I freely admit that 9 out of 10 times, I am more likely to leave the channel on "Bring it On" than something that is actually cinematic genius.
The Gnome is the King of the Tacky Garden Crap. His Queen is the Clay Fairy; His Knight the majestic Flamingo. Gnomes, when used ironically, can be a whimsical part of your yard. If you have not participated in a Gnome Scavenger Hunt, you are missing out on life. (I have not participated in one. That is why I can say this. I have seen others who have and I know I am just a little less of a person.)
One gnome in a garden is adorable. More than one gnome and you had better be an old person who puts plastic dolls heads on stakes and calls them your "garden". Because you have crossed the line.
I regularly walk past a yard I know to belong to a couple of 30 somethings. Last week, they had one gnome -- The Rider Gnome. I applauded them in their use of ironic tackiness and Rider gear. However, tonight, they added others to join the Rider Gnome. Now a trio of gnomes stand watch to attest to the declining taste of their owners. Soon the lawn will be littered with plastic fawns and wood cut outs of fat-bottomed gardeners bending over.
It's sad really.