Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Ruddigore

Primary tabs

Click a term to expand the definition; Search for a term; Select other Opera Chapters; Go to the Lexicon menu for introductory and afterword content..

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

Act II

Mop and a mow [Away they go, with a mop and a mow]

Gestures and grimaces (75). Brewer (54) adds that "mop" comes from the Dutch mopken to pout. Farmer and Henley (115) agree that a mop is a grimace and they quote Shakespeare (from The Tempest) "Each one tripping on his toe,/ Will be here with mop and mow." Bosdêt (43) says "mow" derives from mouth, and is used for distortion, such as sticking out one's tongue.


One meaning of toast is "a lady whose popularity is acknowledged by frequent toasts in her honour" (75). Why the appended e in ladye? Sir Roderic confesses later that he is foggy and that is the only excuse that I can produce. Some observers (254, 274, 302) think Gilbert wanted to make it look archaic, while Stone (284) suggests that Gilbert was perhaps unconsciously influenced by his Bab Ballad "The Ghost to His Ladye Love." See also The Yeomen of the Guard.

Lantern chaps [With a kiss, perhaps, on her lantern chaps]

Long thin jaws, giving a hollow appearance to the cheek (228), or "Cheeks so thin that one may see daylight through them, as light shows through the horn of a lantern" (56).

Bank Holiday [Monday was a Bank Holiday]

A British civil holiday, then recently instituted by Parliament (142). See also Patience.

Fox [On Thursday I shot a fox]

We all know what a fox is. What Americans may not appreciate is the seriousness with which English landed gentry are likely to take their fox hunting. As Burleigh (61) explains, the hunters, on horseback, gallop along after the hounds, who in turn chase a fox with the intent of catching it and tearing it to pieces. Shooting a fox, in the eyes of such huntsmen, is little less than criminal. Fox hunting, it might be added, is no longer politically correct.

Forged his banker [I didn't say I forged his banker -- I said I forged his cheque.]

In those days the only place you could cash a check -- or do anything else with it -- was at the bank where you had an account. It was, in short, like a withdrawal slip. Therefore, forging a check for a fellow who had no bank account was about as innocuous a deed as one could imagine. Robin is merely sidestepping the issue by saying he didn't forge his banker (meaning, of course, his banker's signature). Boswell (45) tells of a clergyman who was hanged for forgery, so apparently that was looked upon as no petty crime.

Syllogistic form

A formal line of reasoning comprising two premises, major and minor, and a conclusion.

Hold water [they wouldn't hold water]

They wouldn't bear inspection. Picture a ship's hull that is tight and so holds water out or, if you prefer, a pot that holds water in (56).

Gideon Crawle [Gideon Crawle, it won't do]

This name is found in place of Old Adam in some older editions of the libretto. Allen (3) explains that on opening night Gilbert had Old Adam change his name in the second act to go with his altered character. Shortly after that, however, Gilbert changed his mind and scratched out all references to Gideon Crawle, including a verse explaining the switch in the duet that opens the second act. He missed this one entry, however, and some editors and publishers slavishly kept it in until at least 1959, thus mystifying whole generations of Savoyards (129). Chambers (72) reports that some producing groups have chosen to reintroduce the second verse, and so have revived poor old Gideon Crawle. Bradley (48) shows the words for that second verse.

Compunction [Away, Remorse! Compunction, hence!]

Pity or scruple.


Go away, begone!

Petrified [a petrified heart]

Turned to stone.

Confidence tricking

A method of professional swindling, in which the victim is induced to hand over money or other valuables as a token of 'confidence' in the sharper (229).

For thirty-five years I've been sober and wary [Omitted song]

The next five entries are from a first-night song (3) now long deleted. It comes between the time Old Adam is sent to carry off a maiden and the entry of Despard and Margaret, mad-woman, retired.

Lemon squashes [I played on the flute and drank lemon squashes]

A drink made from the juice of a lemon, with soda-water, ice, and sometimes sugar (229).


Waterproof garments made of two layers of cloth glued together with something like rubber cement. Named after the inventor, Charles Macintosh (1766-1843). See also The Grand Duke and Cox and Box.

Satyr [My ways must be those of a regular satyr]

Pronunciation: SAY-ter, to rhyme with first-rater.

In this context, a lecher.

Cropper [If I now go a cropper]

Experience a downfall.

Tip-topper [he who was once an abandoned tip-topper]

An abandoned tip-topper is a member of the upper crust who is given over to vice.

Henceforth all the crimes

The next eleven entries are from another version of the same song found in many of the newer versions of the libretto (129, 131) but seldom sung in performance.

Old Bailey [On a regular course of Old Bailey]

Refers to London's Central Criminal Court, taking its nickname from the street on which it is located. Consult Goodman (140) for some significant historical details. See also Trial By Jury.

Prigging [There's postage-stamp prigging]

Petty thievery. Taking home stamps from the office.


The old shell game, a swindle using three or four thimbles and a pea. A swindler places a pea on a table, covers it with one of the thimbles, then after shuffling them about asks his victim to bet which thimble covers the pea, and the victim always guesses wrong and so forfeits his money. Brewer (56) explains that the sharper conceals the pea under his finger nail. Now that you know the secret, you may become a sharper as well and be grateful to this book forevermore.

Three-card delusion at races

The OED (228) defines three-card trick as "a trick popular with race-course sharpers, in which a queen and two other cards are spread out face downward, and bystanders invited to bet which is queen." The game is called "Three-Card Monte" in America. As in England, the bystander has no chance of winning. Now you know; don't try it.

Squires [Ye well-to-do squires, who live in the shires]

Country gentlemen, landed proprietors ranking just below knighthood.


Counties, such as Hampshire, Berkshire, Lancashire, and Yorkshire. Also defined as "the counties in the Midlands in which [fox] hunting is especially popular" (250). Joseph (167) associates the term with any rural areas in the provinces.

Athenaeums [Who found Athenaeums and local museums]

Scientific or literary clubs.

Tradey [all things that are tradey]

A presumably made-up word pertaining to shopkeepers.

M.P.s [Ye supple M.P.s]

Members of Parliament.

Indite [as your leaders indite]

Write or say.