Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Ruddigore

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Act I

To'-gall'n'm'st [strong as a to'-gall'n'm'st]

Pronunciation: tah-GAL-en-mist

Topgallant mast: the third (usually uppermost) segment of a mast above the deck. See drawing of nautical terms in HMS Pinafore, Item No. 13.

Fore-stay [taut as a fore-stay]

Part of the standing (i.e., non-moving) rigging of a ship, which prevents a mast from falling back. See drawing of nautical terms in HMS Pinafore, Item No. 2.


Dialectal for "baronet."

Diffident [I'm timid, Dick; shy -- nervous -- modest -- retiring -- diffident]

There! Gilbert has defined it for you.

Binnacle light

Compass light.

Bowline [sail ten knots on a bowline]

Pronunciation: BO-len

Drawing of Sailing on a bowline

To make good progress even when beating up wind. Sailing on a bowline means sailing close-hauled. Ten knots would be a little over eleven statute miles per hour, not bad for a sailing ship.

Becalmed under my lee [when she's becalmed under my lee]

Read when I'm in a position to speak to her.

Fish [fish you two together]

To splice or join, i.e., marry.


Rude, pushy, quarrelsome, and overly self-oriented. Not at all like you, dear reader.

Bos'n's mate

Pronunciation: BO-sun's mate

A sailor's way of saying "boatswain's mate." A boatswain is a non-commissioned officer who supervises work, usually as ordered by a higher ranking officer. A boatswain's mate is his assistant. But, how does Robin happen to know Richard's rank? This suggests that one of his sleeves should carry some sort of distinguishing emblem.

Addled [And hampered and addled]

Confused. If my dictionary (250) is telling the truth, the word derives from a cognate with an old German word meaning liquid manure. Isn't that romantic! See also Iolanthe.

Crichton [A Crichton of early romance]

Pronunciation: CRY-tun

James Crichton ("the Admirable Crichton"), a Scottish scholar, adventurer, and linguist of the sixteenth century. A true genius and a gentleman. A more complete sketch is to be found in Iolanthe.

Stump [You must stir it and stump it]

To boast or swagger, also to make stump speeches (115).

Blow your own trumpet

Alludes to the heralds who used to announce with a flourish of trumpets a knight entering a list (55).

Ovid [From Ovid and Horace to Swinburne and Morris]

Pronunciation: AH-vid

A Roman poet who lived from 43 B.C. to about A.D. 18. For details turn to Iolanthe under the heading "Ovidius Naso."


Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65-8 b.c.): Another famous Roman poet.


Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909): English poet and critic. One of the aesthetes whose mindless followers were lampooned in Patience.


William Morris (1834-1896): Another well-known Pre-Raphaelite. Although best remembered for his designs of furnishings, wall paper, and furniture, he was a poet as well. He and Swinburne both lived long after the time of the supposed setting for the opera: "Early in the nineteenth century." But, no matter.

Port Admiral

The naval officer in charge of managing a naval fleet stationed in a given harbor. He would assign mooring locations, arrange for supplying water and stores, and oversee necessary maintenance and repairs.

Tight [she's a tight little craft]

Carefully built, i.e., neat and shapely; in no way resembling a sack full of old shoes.

Lord Nelson [she's fit to marry Lord Nelson]

Viscount Horatio Nelson (1758-1805): England's greatest naval hero, killed in the Battle of Trafalgar. Gilbert specifies that the action takes place early in the nineteenth century. This reference to Nelson pins the time down to the first few years of that century.

Aback [took flat aback]

The term means greatly astonished (56). The expression comes from the condition of a square-rigged ship when a change in relative wind direction causes it to act on the wrong side of the sail and so slow or stop the ship's forward motion. (The ship shown on the drawing of nautical terms in HMS Pinafore is square-rigged.)

Parbuckle [Parbuckle me]
Drawing of Parbuckle

To parbuckle an object, you raise or lower it with ropes that are looped around it. This is rather rough treatment. In modern lingo read, "Fry my hide."

Meet [Is it meet … ?]

Fitting and proper.

Chartered [I was chartered by another]

The phrase means that he was acting on behalf of another.

False colours [never sail under false colours]

Don't be hypocritical. The allusion is to the underhanded way in which pirates would fly some respectable flag (rather than the Jolly Roger) so they could approach another ship and take her by surprise.

Blue jacket [the happiest blue jacket in England]

Popular term for a naval seaman, named from the color of their jackets (54).

Admiral of the Fleet [I wouldn't change places with the Admiral of the Fleet, no matter who he's a-huggin' of]

This may be a sly dig at Nelson's shockingly open liaison with Lady Hamilton.

Salute [might I be permitted to salute the flag]

Euphemism for kiss, and the "flag" would be Rose Maybud's cherry lips.

Welter [from tempest's welter]

Related to being tossed about in waves.