Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Sorcerer

Click a term to expand the definition; Search for a term; Select other Opera Chapters; Go to the Lexicon menu for introductory and afterword content..

Enter part of a term; e.g., "gill" for Gillow's.

Act I

Oracular [Answers oracular]

Here’s a term teeming with mystic significance. It can mean an infallible guide. It can also mean an equivocal pronouncement. It is derived from the oracles at Delphi, priests or priestesses who claimed to transmit the voices of the gods. They protected their reputations by giving ambiguous advice. See also HMS Pinafore.

Bogies [Bogies spectacular]

Hobgoblins: persons or objects of terror (54). What some of us used to call “boogie men.”

Tetrapods [Tetrapods tragical]

Morningstar (216) explains that Gilbert was referring “to the tetrapody form of a logaoedic verse, a great favorite of Greek tragedians.” (Logaoedic means the verse is made up of long and short syllables in certain well-defined sequences.) A tetrapody is a verse of four metrical feet (6). (In poetic matters a “foot” is a patterned group of syllables.)

[Note: In some editions of the libretto the sequence of the last three items is reversed.]

[Note on sequence of terms] [Oracular, bogies, tetrapods]

In some editions of the libretto the sequence of the last three items is reversed.

Astronomical [Facts astronomical]

The word pertains to the study of the heavenly bodies. Asimov (11) believes that Gilbert really meant astrological, but needed a word to rhyme with comical. Asimov may be right. On the other hand might we not argue that Gilbert meant facts in large numbers?

Reflectors [And that, without reflectors]

This pertains to the mirrors often used in stage illusions.

Spectres [gaunt and grisly spectres]




Shrouds [He can fill you crowds of shrouds]

Interpret this as meaning he can provide you with many ghosts, each clothed in a burial wrap.

Rack [He can rack your brains]

To torture by stretching.

Gibberings [gibberings grim and ghastly]

Senseless chattering, like a lecture on medieval monetary practices in Faroffistan.

Organity [Changes organity, with an urbanity]

The OED (228) has it as “The condition of having organs, or being organic.” We presume in changing organity the resident Djinn is simply using his supernatural powers to assume a different form.


Refined elegance, savoir-faire.


Pertaining to Satan, who (according to Jewish and Christian beliefs) is the chief adversary of man, a.k.a. the devil.


A senseless frivolity.

Tautology [Barring tautology]

Needless repetition. “Posthumous shade” and “a panacea for every ill” are two handy examples.


The study of demons (evil spirits) or of beliefs about the same. Witchcraft would be an example.


I should have taken this to mean simply electro-biology had not Rees (251) called to my attention Merivale’s autobiography (213) in which electro-biology is described at some length. It was merely hypnotism under another name. The early practitioners seemingly believed that electricity was involved, hence the misleading terminology.

Nosology [Mystic nosology]

Study of diseases. Asimov (11) and Huston (158) suggest that mystic nosology may be the curing of illness through magic. Stedman (274) thinks it more likely that it pertains to curing illnesses that are caused by magic.

Philology [Spirit philology]

Study of language and the origin of words.