Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for HMS Pinafore

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

Act I


The term can mean either rabbit meat or rabbit fur. In the context, meat seems more likely.


Collins (75) says this is “A kind of partly-cooked sausage.” Hyder (161) says the word is a corruption of Bologna, the city of its origin. The American corruption is baloney.

Spithead [the reddest beauty in all Spithead]

The sheltered stretch of water between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

Dissembled [I have dissembled well]

She means she has used various artifices to improve her figure and complexion. Another interpretation is applied to the same word in the second act.

Canker-worm [there may lurk a canker-worm]

A destructive grub or caterpillar. Buttercup is speaking figuratively and hinting at her dark secret. Her words remind us of Shakespeare’s lines in Twelfth Night: “She never told her love, but let concealment, like a worm i’ th’ bud, feed on her damask cheek.”

Three-cornered [And I’m three-cornered, too, ain’t I?]
Sketch of Three-cornered

Dick Deadeye is usually portrayed as permanently bent at the waist and with one shoulder carried higher than the other in a deformed, almost triangular configuration.


The word has several meanings. In this case it means a lover’s lament set to music.

Minstrelsy [The pearl of minstrelsy]

Pronunciation: MIN-strelsey

The art or practice of a wandering poet or musician.

Menial [To do her menial’s duty]

A menial is the humblest sort of servant, one assigned to do the most degrading tasks. Proofreading lexicons is a depressing example.

Some nautical terms [Drawing of ship with numbers]


List of Nautical Terms
1. Fo’c’s’le 8. Main truck
2. Forestay 9. Reefed sail
3. Bobstay 10. Pennant
4. Quarterdeck 11. Topman
5. Poop deck 12. Gun port
6. Fore mast 13. To’gall’n’m’st
7. Foremast yard arm 14. Shrouds
Foremast hand

A common sailor. The term derives from the practice of housing the officers aft (i.e., near the stern) and the common seamen in the forecastle. See drawing of nautical terms.


That part of the upper deck extending from the main mast (near mid-length) to the stern. The officers, being accommodated in the stern, consider the quarterdeck “their” territory. Unlicensed seamen avoid the quarterdeck unless called there in the line of duty. See drawing of nautical terms.

Fore-yard arm [who lays out on the fore-yard arm]

See drawing of nautical terms. Item No. 6 is the fore mast, and Item No. 7 is one of the fore-yard arms: i.e., a yard arm on the fore mast. Sailors must “lay out” on the yards in order to handle the sails. See Item No. 11.

Main-truck [he hoists his flag at the main-truck]

The very top of the main mast –– the highest point of the entire ship, and a suitable place for the highest officer to display his flag. See drawing of nautical terms, Item No. 8.

Hoists … his slacks

In his children’s version (132) Gilbert explains that “hoisting his slacks” means hitching up the waist-band of his trousers to put them in their proper place.

Peer [Though related to a peer]

In general, a nobleman. More specifically, “a member of any of the five degrees of the nobility in Great Britain and Ireland, namely duke, marquis, earl, viscount, and baron” (250). As Asimov (11) observes, when one is related to a peer, one finds ways to work it into the conversation. See also Iolanthe, The Gondoliers, Utopia, Limited, and The Zoo.

Hand [I can hand, reef, and steer]

In this case, hand means to take in and furl a sail. See the OED (228). The expression “hand, reef, and steer” is an old nautical cliché describing the skills required of an able seaman.


Reduce the area of a sail exposed to the wind by partially furling it. Item No. 9 shown on the drawing of nautical terms is an example of a reefed sail.

Ship a selvagee [and ship a selvagee]

Smyth’s Sailor’s Work Book of 1867 defines selvagee as “a strong and pliant hank, or untwisted skein of rope-yarn marled together, and used as a strap to fasten round a shroud or stay, or slings to which to hook a tackle to hoist in any heavy article.” This is as quoted in the OED (228). To ship a selvagee is to place it in working position.

Ancestral timber [That ever blossomed on ancestral timber]

The family tree.