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

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

Act II

Yoke [has shaken off his yoke]

Figuratively: constraints or burdens.


A U-shaped metal link with a heavy pin closing the free ends, used for joining lengths of chain (75).

Fetter [fetter and chain]

Leg irons.

Hugh Ambrose [The Merrie Jestes of Hugh Ambrose]

Like Richard Colfax and Warren the preacher-poet, Hugh Ambrose is apparently a fictitious name.


One who gives official counsel. In this case perhaps a member of some civic governing body.


Hungry (an expression found in both Shakespeare and the Bible).

Mumming [Ah! ‘tis but melancholy mumming ]

Acting in a dumb show, usually wearing a mask.

Jerry [jerry-jailing]
Sketch of Jerry-jailing

“Jerry” is used as a prefix to denote poor workmanship or shoddy material (229). Although of uncertain origin, some think the word may come from Jericho, whose “walls came tumbling down” at the sound of Joshua’s trumpets (43, 54). Alternatively, Stone (284) thinks it more likely to derive from “jury mast,” a corruption of joury mast, being a spar used temporarily when the mast has been carried away. This is from the French jour, meaning a day. Thus something jerry-built is not intended to last.

Butt [a big butt of humour]

A cask or barrel.


A hand tool for boring small holes.


Cause you to distress your brain excessively, perhaps over some riddle like those involving cooks’ brain-pans and overwound clocks. Although the word is sometimes spelled “rack,” it shares roots with wracu (misery) rather than the torture rack.

Buffoon [a private buffoon]

Here is a word of many meanings, one of which is a fool or jester.

Loon [a light-hearted loon]

A stupid person, perhaps “tetched in the head.”

Death’s head and cross-bones
Sketch of Death's head and cross-bones

The standard sign for poison. Also the pirate flag.

Auricular [each person’s auricular]

The literal meaning pertains to the ear. Gilbert refers here to the figurative meaning of a person’s reaction to what you tell him, based on his attitudes and prejudices. See also Utopia, Limited.

F sharp

Perhaps this is more than the musical note F#. Brewer (56) would have us believe that the expression is a slang term for flea: F standing for flea, and sharp to describe his bite.


To complain of small faults petulantly and without reason, a common characteristic of certain theater critics whose names shall generously go unmentioned here.


To mock or treat with contempt.

D.D. [Comes a Bishop, maybe, or a solemn D.D.]

A Doctor of Divinity, i.e., a cleric with an advanced degree in theology.

Orthodox smack

A flavor, or characteristic, aligned with accepted religious tenants.

Imported from France


Rack [Though your head it may rack]

A variation of “wrack”: to cause pain and distress.

Bilious [with a bilious attack]

Pertaining to bile: the bitter greenish fluid secreted by the liver. See also Patience and Cox and Box.

Perpend [So hold thy peace and perpend]

To think or ponder (about what is going to be proposed).


Pronunciation: ARE-kew-bus

An early form of firearm. Because of its size and weight it was usually fired from a supporting crutch.


Seemingly impossible statements that may indeed be true. The most famous example threatened Frederic’s courtship.

Cock and bull

A cock and bull tale is an unbelievable, boastful bit of fiction as exemplified by Pitti-Sing’s story about catching the beheadee’s eye and inspiring him to whistle an air. But that’s another opera and another land. Brewer (54) believes that the expression hearkens back to “old fables in which cocks, bulls, and other animals discoursed in human language.” The phrase dates back to at least 1692. Another edition of Brewer (57) suggests two other possible sources for the expression (both ancient): (1) a combination of concocted and bully, Danish for “exaggerated” and (2) related to fables about Persian and Egyptian idols. One suspects Brewer was trying too hard. We may conclude that the etymology is unknown; but see The Mikado.

Conjugal fetters

Figurative marriage chains.

Gyves [Gyves that no smith can weld]

Pronunciation: jives

These are usually leg irons but in this case Fairfax is referring to the figurative marriage chains, which were lots sturdier in those olden times than they are today.