Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Yeomen of the Guard

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Act I


Legally justified.

Follify [Come, fool, follify!]

A Gilbertian word demanding of Jack Point some instant examples of his wit.

Vapour [If you vapour vapidly]

As a verb: to pass off as a gas –– from which we derive, figuratively, to talk idly or to brag (75).


Pronunciation: Rhymes with rapidly

Without animation, flavor, or underlying content (64).

Quip [Give us quip and quiddity]

A witty remark.


A trifling nicety of speech, perhaps revealing the essential nature of something. Aurora (19) reminds us that Falstaff uses the expression “quip and quiddity” in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

Philosophy [the truest philosophy]

The literal meaning is “the love of wisdom,” but it has acquired other meanings, such as one’s view of the meaning of life and how to live it.

Couplet [We can rhyme you couplet, triolet, quatrain, sonnet, rondolet, ballade]

“A pair of lines of verse, especially if rhyming and of equal length” (75).


A poem of eight lines and a specific rhyming pattern about which I shall not worry you here.


A stanza of four lines, often rhyming alternately.


“A poem of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, with a definite rhyme scheme …” (75). A proper sonnet expresses but a single theme, idea, or sentiment (250).


A short song in which the main theme is frequently repeated.


Pronunciation: b’LAHD

“A short poem of one to three triplet stanzas of eight lines, each with the same rhymes and refrain, and an envoi of four or five lines” (75). An envoi is a little postscript or epilogue. Isn’t it amazing how ignorant you were until you read this?

Saraband [Or we can dance you saraband, gondolet, carole, pimpernel, or Jumping Joan]

“A slow and stately Spanish dance in triple time” (228).


Hyder (161) has uncovered evidence that there is a Basque folk dance called the gondolet. We can assume that is what Gilbert had in mind.


A ring of men and women holding hands and singing while moving around in a dance step. Knight (177) says it originated in France; Terry (286) says Saxony. The Encyclopedia Americana says it originated in the Middle Ages as a folk dance, but later became an aristocratic dance, often associated with a song (105).


This seems to be original with Gilbert. Some editions of the libretto, incidentally, show it spelled with a capital P, others do not. For the version with the capital P, see the picture of Gilbert giving a personal demonstration opposite page 128 in Pearson (240).

Jumping Joan

“A country dance” (108).

Farce [the singing farce]

A light-hearted style of comedy in which the humor derives from the situation rather than from any character development.

Loon [a love-lorn loon]

A simpleton (corruption of lunatic).

Heighdy [Heighdy! Misery me, lackadaydee!]

Pronunciation: HAY-dee

Heighdy is presumably a variation on heigh-ho, implying weariness (75). Bushland (64) says it is “an attempt to spell what a sigh sounds like.”

Misery me

Simply means the singer is feeling miserable.


Derived from lackadaisical, which Brewer (56) defines as “Affected, pensive, sentimental [or] artificially tender.” Bushland (64) observes that the root “alackaday” is a contraction of “alas the day.” See also Ruddigore.

Peerly [peerly proud]

An obsolete word meaning “in the manner of a peer or equal” (229). A peer would be a nobleman.

Ladye [for the love of a ladye]

Lady. Perhaps Gilbert spelled it this way to make sure you would pronounce it to rhyme with HAY-dee. Rees (254) says it is probably just an attempt to make it look early English. See also Ruddigore.


Ringing of a funeral bell.

Dirge [a doleful dirge]

Funeral music, from the Latin dirige, the first word of the prescribed service for the dead. See also Cox and Box.

Popinjay [It’s a song of a popinjay, bravely born]

Vain, empty-headed fop, decked out in ornamental finery (115). Not the sort you’ll find reading this book. The word is taken from the dummy bird formerly used in target practice (2). See also Princess Ida.

Bravely [bravely born]

Referring to brave in the sense of being noble.

Pother [What is this pother?]

Confusion, bustle, disturbance.