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

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Act II

E’en [I’ll e’en go]

Contraction for even. We might say “I’ll just be going.”

Tush [Tush, old lady]

English people might instead say “pshaw,” while Yanks would more likely say “baloney,” or even worse.

In thy teeth

Right back at you!

Kirtle [or I’ll swallow my kirtle]

“A kind of short gown or jacket: an outer petticoat” (75). The expression is equivalent to “I’ll eat my hat.”

Trolling [Strange adventure that we’re trolling]


Winsome [this winsome Elsie]

This word abounds in pleasant meanings: attractive, charming, cheerful, agreeable, winning, engaging, and all those other happy adjectives that go to describe the young women in a G&S show.

Lucky bag [Fortune’s lucky bag]

A grab bag containing prizes, much in use at bazaars and children’s parties (54).

Wrought [I was highly wrought]

Frenzied, in a tizzy.

Parlous [I am consumed with a parlous jealousy]

Extremely bad, perilously so!

Epitaph [his epitaph is set up!]

An inscription on a tomb. Bierce (39) defines it as showing that virtues acquired by death have a retroactive effect. Mark Twain noted a remarkable attribute of a toppled tombstone: it could lie on its front and its back at the same time.

Fig [a fig for this Fairfax!]

Equivalent to a snap of the fingers. The expression supposedly has its roots in the twelfth century. It seems that the Milanese, in revolting against Frederick Barbarossa (emperor of the Holy Roman Empire), had the temerity to drive his queen out of town riding backwards on a mule. The Mikado would have applauded Frederick’s revenge. Upon recapturing the city he “compelled all his prisoners, on pain of death, to extract with his (or her) teeth a fig from the fundament of a mule, and the thing being done, to say in announcement ‘ecco la fica’ [behold! the fig]. Thus far la fica became an universal mode of derision” (115). How little one knows of the finer things of life until one reads a G&S lexicon.

Portent [What can the portent mean?]

“An omen, especially of evil” (75).

Forbear [to rashly judge forbear]

Abstain. See also The Zoo.

Draperies [To his draperies I hung]


Dint [by dint of stronger muscle]

Violence, force, or power (165).

Infernal juggle

A devilish maneuver.

Dispatch [with what dispatch ye may!]

To get under way in haste.

By my head

Truly (64).

Unchidden [my tears may flow unchidden]

Without rebuke.

Gainsay [that none may gainsay]


Plaguey [a plaguey ill-favoured face]

A colloquialism for troublesome or annoying (115).


Ugly, deformed, or villainous (75).

Hang-dog [A very hang-dog face]

“A pitiful rascal, only fit for the rope or the hanging of superfluous curs” (115). Walters (302) describes such a face as miserable or obsequious. Goodman (142) thinks Gilbert meant a sad face, the expression coming from the bloodhound’s sagging cheeks.

Awry [make him strike awry]

In the wrong direction, off target. At his own execution Sir Thomas More “cautioned the executioner not to be afraid to do his work. His neck was short, More said; if the executioner cared for his reputation as a headsman, he should not strike awry” (199). See entry for “Chippy” in The Mikado.

Sophistries [threadbare sophistries]

Subtle but unsound logic.

Engage [If he will, I’ll engage]
Sketch of A man who would woo



Short for “apprentice” (as a verb). To place oneself under contract to serve a master craftsman and learn the trade. Remember Frederic?

Jack … Jill [But every Jack, he must study the knack if he wants to make sure of his Jill!]

Brewer (54) cites the old phrase, “Every Jack must have his Jill,” and quotes Shakespeare to lend an air of authenticity.

Lime [His twig he’ll so carefully lime]

The act of smearing a sticky substance on twigs to catch and entangle the wings of birds (165).

Clime [Whatever its plumage or clime]

Natural habitat.