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 II

Supercilious sneer

A facial expression effected by curling the upper lip or turning up the nose (or both), showing proud and haughty contempt. See also Trial By Jury.

Meanest [The meanest in the port division]

The lowest in rank or pecking order.

Port division

Presumably refers to the port watch. Ship’s crews were in those days divided into two groups for alternating work. These were called the port and starboard watches.

Epauletted scorn [The butt of epauletted scorn]

The term is one coined by Gilbert to mean the scorn shown by ships’ officers. Epaulettes are those shoulder decorations, usually with tassels, worn on naval officers’ uniforms.

Quarter-deck derision [The mark of quarter-deck derision]

This refers to the sneers of officers.

Mould [Above the dust to which you’d mould me/him]

Cast down.

Roosian, Proosian, and Itali-an

These mispronunciations may be interpreted as typical British disdain, if not contempt, for “them furriners.”

Reprobation [In uttering a reprobation]

A scolding, or good chewing-out.

Damme [Why, damme, it’s too bad!]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with clammy.

A contraction of damn me! (Shocking!)

Ribald [Go, ribald, get you hence]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with nibbled.

A vulgar person who uses coarse language.

Celerity [To your cabin with celerity]

Haste. Contrary to popular rumor, celerity is not a young woman. Note lower case c.

Fo’c’sle [love burns as brightly in the fo’c’sle]

Pronunciation: FOKE-sill

Correctly fo’c’s’le: the sailors’ usual way of speaking of a forecastle, a raised deck in the bow of a ship. In medieval ships the forecastle was an elevated platform in the bow from which archers could shoot at the enemy. Protection was afforded by a wooden bulwark (wall) on which shields were often hung. Extending somewhat above the bulwarks, the collective shields resembled the castellated top of a castle wall, hence the term “forecastle.” See Item No. 1 on the drawing of nautical terms.

Fell [with this sailor fell]



Bell invented the device in 1876. The first London exchange opened two months after the opera opened (7).

Baby-farming [I practiced baby-farming]

Collins (75) defines a baby farmer as “one who, for a fee, accepts on a relatively large scale the care of infants but is indifferent as to their welfare.” Wilson (320) maintains that Buttercup could not be accused of being “indifferent as to their welfare.” He notes that “except for her one great carelessness, Buttercup seems quite an affectionate, matronly sort of woman.” Wilson is probably right in defending Buttercup, but Kanthor (169) produces evidence that baby farmers, in general, had a thoroughly rotten reputation. Knight (178) believes most of the babies were illegitimate.

Nussed [Two tender babes I nussed]
Sketch of Two tender babes I nussed

Buttercup’s way of pronouncing nursed to make it rhyme with crust. Gypsy blood makes one a natural poet, or poetess, as the case may be. Or at least it confers poetic license. (Actually, nuss was a commonly used pronunciation among the lower classes of that period.)


A person of noble birth.


A homeless or neglected child.