Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Mikado

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

Act II

Marriage-tide [Modesty at marriage-tide]

Time of marriage.

Artless [in my artless Japanese way]

Natural, simple, uncontrived, and without guile.

Effulgent [He glories all effulgent!]

Giving off a flood of light.

Celestial [The moon's Celestial Highness]

Pertaining to the heavens.

Diffidence [Of diffidence or shyness]

Lack of self-confidence.

Take the top off it [It does seem to take the top off it]

To take the edge off it; to skim off the cream. Halton (147) says this is said colloquially of ale or beer that has gone stale.

Efface [Then we'll efface it]

Erase, expunge, delete.


An unaccompanied part-song for three or more singers. Madrigals as a form go back at least four centuries.

Tocsin [Though the tocsin sound, ere long]

A warning bell.

Master of the Rolls

The Master of the Rolls is the third most important judge in the English legal hierarchy, ranking below the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice. He is also the chief custodian of official records (243). The position was introduced by George IV in 1838 to care for "all ancient state documents" (319). Goodman (141) expounds at some length on the historical developments affecting the office. He notes that the responsibilities in Gilbert's time were altogether different from those of today (to say nothing of those in Japan then or now).

Judge Ordinary

The judge of the Court of Probate and Divorce, previous to 1876 (228).

Lord Chancellor

In Britain the Lord Chancellor is the highest judicial authority, about equivalent in rank to the Chief Justice of the United States. He is also the Speaker of the House of Lords. Goodman (142) says he is the only judge in England who is a politician, and has five separate functions (but I'll not burden you with the details). See also Iolanthe.

How-de-do [Here's a how-de-do!]

A colloquialism, short for "How do you do?" (115). Today we might say, somewhat less delicately, "Here's a can of worms!" MacPhail (194) says that Sullivan in his autograph full score invariably writes "How d'ye do."


In public disgrace.

Blue-bottle [I never even killed a blue-bottle]

A large fly about equivalent to a horsefly.

Nominal [the duties were purely nominal]

Literally "in name only." In short, Ko-Ko thought that as Lord High Executioner his duties were to attend to the superficial formalities but not the actual dirty work.

Affidavit [when making an affidavit]

A "statement in writing made on oath, sworn before someone who has authority to administer it" (141).

Secretary of State for the Home Department

Minister of the home office responsible amongst other things for the role of the police at a national level (141).

Perjure [are required to perjure ourselves]

To involve oneself in violating an oath; e.g., to falsify an affidavit. Tush.


A uniformed messenger, doorman, or porter. For further details see entry for same term in Thespis.

Miya sama

The start of the chorus at the entry of the Mikado. The words are an authentic Japanese marching song of Gilbert's day. The meaning is approximately as follows: "Oh, Prince, what is that fluttering in front of your horse?" A second verse, which Gilbert omits, gives this reply: "It is the imperial standard given to us to carry with us as we go to punish enemies of the Imperial Government" (197). Bradley (48) offers further details.

Sect [I govern each tribe and sect]

Any group, party, or faction united by a specific doctrine or under a doctrinal leader (250).

Own [All cheerfully own my sway]


Philanthropist [a true philanthropist]

One who does good deeds inspired by a love of mankind; just the sort of person who organizes amateur G&S performing groups.

Pent [each prisoner pent]

Locked up in durance vile.

Prosy [All prosy dull society sinners]

Prosaic, unimaginative, and probably long-winded.

Mystical Germans

Halton (147) explains that these were Lutheran evangelists who traveled around England delivering long, and often tiresome, sermons.

Madame Tussaud's waxwork

Pronunciation: Tussaud's: too-SOZE

A London museum exhibiting lifelike wax effigies of famous people. A native of Switzerland, Madame Tussaud learned modeling in Paris, and started a museum exhibiting figures of famous and infamous people. Bradley (48) claims that she was compelled to make wax casts of the heads of victims of the guillotine. She moved her exhibit to London in 1802, one hopes without those replicated heads.

Puce [or stains her grey hair puce]

A dark or purplish brown. The word is derived from the French for "flea," puce being the color of the little rascals, if you look carefully and closely. Or perhaps you'd be willing to take our word for it.