Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Gondoliers

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

Act II

Titivating [Spend an hour in titivating all our Gentlemen-in-Waiting]

Putting the finishing touches on one’s personal appearance. Hair combed? Sash straight? Medals all in place? Spats buttoned? Monocle screwed in place? Pants buttoned?


The OED (228) defines a gentleman-in-waiting as “A man of gentle birth attached to the household of the sovereign or other person of high rank.” The term “of gentle birth” means that he comes from a family of good social position.

Deputation [Or receive a deputation]

A small group of representatives from a commercial, charitable, or social body, commissioned to place a view before the sovereign, or to present a loyal address (245).

Peer [we possibly create a peer or two]

In England a nobleman of the rank of duke, marquis, earl, viscount, or baron––all hereditary positions. See also HMS Pinafore, Iolanthe, Utopia, Limited, and The Zoo.

Garter [With the Garter or the Thistle or the Bath]

“Badge of the highest order of knighthood in Great Britain” (75). The commonly held belief is that the order dates back to 1344, when Edward II was dancing with a lady, and her garter slipped to the floor. Seeing her embarrassment, the king gallantly put the garter on his own leg and said (in translation), “Shame on anyone who thinks ill of this” (266). See also The Zoo.


The highest order of Scottish knighthood, taking its name from the royal emblem of Scottish kings (56).


“An order of knighthood, the second in rank in Great Britain, so named from the former ceremony of purification at the inauguration of a knight” (75). There are those who doubt this etymology, but they offer no alternative (142).


A colloquialism for “stroll.” See also The Mikado.

Semi-State [toddle off in semi-State]

Attire suitable for ordinary ceremonial occasions (but never mind the crowns or ermine-trimmed robes).


Pronunciation: Rhymes with state

A festival or celebration.

Ever and anon

From time to time (55).

Merciful eclipse

Lowered eyelids.

Having passed the Rubicon

Having gone too far to turn back. This is based on Julius Caesar’s march on Rome in 49 B.C. The Rubicon was the river marking the boundary of Caesar’s assigned authority. When he crossed it he was, in effect, in mutiny.


Gilbert’s baroque word for fingers of the most refined, delicate, and feminine variety.

Cot [Take a pretty little cot]

A cottage.

Dainty [a dainty man to please]

Overly fastidious.

Main [we’ve crossed the main]

Any wide expanse of ocean. In this case, more likely the Mediterranean Sea.

Livery [Ain’t the livery becoming]

The special (and usually fancy) clothing provided by a lord to his household servants.

Sketch of Dance a Cachucha

An Andalusian dance in three-quarter time, usually with castanets accompaniment. It is of uncertain origin, but was made popular in the United States by Fanny Elssler (1810-84), a Viennese who became the lead ballerina at the Paris Opera. One evening while crossing the ocean she found her cabin invaded by a knife-wielding member of the ship’s crew intent on stealing her jewelry. Fanny had other ideas, so she “took a preparation and did a turn during which she hit him with her extended leg with such force that he fell to the floor” –– and died a few days later (75, 83, 84, 159). The authentic Spanish pronunciation {kah-CHOO-cha} is something like a sneeze; but Gilbert, Sullivan, and the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company all pronounced it {kah-CHOO-kah}. Perhaps they thought it was more easily understood that way. (You should know that in some parts of the Spanish-speaking world “cachucha” has become an obscene vulgarism.)


A lively dance in triple time performed by one or more couples with castanets. Bradley (48) gives complete descriptions of these dances and the bolero, in case you are interested.