Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Princess Ida

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Act I

Speak [For at that age I had not learnt to speak.]

Hilarion is like the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah who said, "Ah, Lord God! behold I cannot speak; for I am a child."

Heralds [They are heralds evidently]

Official conveyors of important announcements or royal proclamations.


Shielded by diplomatic immunity (but not for long, as it turns out).

Rex [Sons of Gama, Rex]


Bent [They are not our bent]

An inclination or strong point.

Doughty [But with doughty heart]

Pronunciation: DOW-tee


Philanthropist [I'm a genuine philanthropist]

One who does good deeds out of a love for mankind. A splendid example would be an enlightened person who buys bales of this lexicon to place in hotel rooms.

Erring [In my erring fellow creatures]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with purring.

Departing from the correct way.

Snub [little plans to snub the self-sufficient]

To treat scornfully, coldly, or with contempt. To bring up short with rudeness or indifference. Let me cite an example of snub and counter-snub. Back in 1707 the nations of Europe were concerned with the brash King Charles of Sweden, who had conquered Saxony and stood poised to upset the balance of power throughout the continent. England's most powerful leader was John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough. He requested an audience with Charles and was invited to meet the king in his temporary residence in central Germany. Since Churchill was not a monarch, diplomatic protocol demanded that his initial contact should be with Count Piper, Charles's de facto prime minister. When the duke in his carriage arrived at the palace, Piper sent word that he was busy and kept the duke waiting half an hour. Finally, as Piper came forward, the duke stepped out of his carriage, donned his hat, and walked right past the count without acknowledging his presence. Then, a few feet away, the duke calmly urinated against a wall, then turned and greeted Piper "in courtly fashion" (202). Next time someone snubs you, keep this riposte in mind.


Self-satisfied, conceited.


To humiliate.

Interested motives

The hidden, usually selfish, reasons for taking a position that seems to be based on high principles.

Ascetic [I'm sure I'm no ascetic]

One who is sternly self-denying. The word derives from the Greek asketes, or hermit.


A half-suppressed laugh.


A sly or furtive look expressive of malignity, lasciviousness, or triumph (75).

Prejudice [To everybody's prejudice]

Detracting from reputation.

Bandy [How dare you bandy words with me?]

To knock back and forth, or to wrangle. The word also means bent, as in bandy-legs (bow legs), to which Cyril alludes in his reply, "No need to bandy aught that appertains to you." The second meaning goes back to the seventeenth century, when a curved stick called a "bandy" was used in bandy ball, a game similar to hockey (12).



Knave [as a traitor knave]

A dishonest person. The miserable, poorly educated sort who would write an unfavorable review of this book.


Not a gentleman; one who arrogates to himself merits which he does not deserve (56).

Safety matches

A comparative novelty at the time the opera was produced (178).

Knowledge box [they light only on the knowledge box]

The head (56).

Dr. Watts's hymns [She'll scarcely suffer Dr. Watts's hymns]

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was an English theologian and prolific author of hymns, his total output reaching some 600, including "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." His works are available today in a reprint of his Hymns and Spiritual Songs, originally published in 1707.

Sue [humbly sue]


Sillery [And pops of Sillery]

A high-class wine produced in and around the village of Sillery in Champagne (228).

Bower [We'll storm their bowers]

The OED (229) offers several meanings including a dwelling, a poetic word for an idealized abode, a shady recess, or a lady's private apartment or boudoir. Any one of those would fit the context.

Triolet [Oh dainty triolet]

A poem of eight lines and a specific rhyming pattern, which starts out AB, AA, ABAB … Stedman (273) calls attention to the song "Expressive glances," in which the word occurs. The verses of the song are themselves close to being triolets.

Heigho-let [or gentle heigho-let]

Heigh-ho is an exclamation of weariness. "Heigho-let" is Gilbert's variation to rhyme with triolet and violet and, as he so thoughtfully goes on to say, means a little sigh.

Urbanity [On sweet urbanity]

Polished politeness.


Pertaining to emptiness or silliness. In other words, sweet nothings for those shell-like ears.