Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Gondoliers

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

Act II


An unmarried woman, usually taken to be one of advanced years.

Know her again [If I can get at her I doubt if her mother will know her again]

Tessa is probably implying that she would pull Casilda’s hair out, scratch her face to ribbons, and possibly bite off her ears and nose.

Retainers [Enter procession of retainers]

Servants employed by some person of rank.

Resign [Who resign their pet]



One who takes small, uncertain steps. One meaning of “tiddle” is small. One meaning of “toddle” is to walk, another is to “totter along” (115).

Ipso facto [he will, ipso facto, boil down to a single gentleman]

By the same fact, i.e., automatically. Latin for “by the very act” (66).

Tartar [To the thunder of this Tartar]

A person of bad temper, savage habits, and probably bad breath. People of this description, being unable to obtain honest employment, often end up as sarcastic theater critics. The name comes from the Mongolian and Turkish nomadic tribes of eastern Europe, more properly called Tatars.

Progenitor [your great progenitor]


Marital [Of marital interference]

Pronunciation: MARE-it-al is correct, but mare-EYE-till sounds better as sung.

Pertaining to marriage.

Reciprocating [A more reciprocating couple]

Working well together, cooperating beautifully, and reflecting mutual love.

Double-shotted guns

A cannon loaded with a double quantity of projectiles, which might be appropriate if the target were fairly close. Not recommended practice unless you are sure your cannon can take the extra load without flying apart and taking various valued components of your person with it.

Colours nailed unto the mast

The ship’s national flag may be nailed to the mast to ensure that it will not be lowered as a sign of surrender. Of course, if the mast is shot away all bets are off. Don’t try it with iron masts.

Arrear [ninety-five quarters in arrear]

Behind in his payments.

Floated at a premium

The initial sales of shares or stock in a company are said to be floated at a premium if they command more than the nominal (par value) price on the stock market.

Applied for [he was applied for over and over again]

There are two meanings here. The first is that the demand for shares of his company exceeded all expectations. The second meaning, which is brought out a few lines later, is that his creditors were also in vigorous pursuit.

Limited Liability Act

A British law intended to regulate the sale of company stocks. See the entry under “Wind him up” above. See also Utopia, Limited.

Remunerative [it’s most remunerative]


Orders [Small titles and orders]

Honors such as the Order of Thisorthat.

Recorders [For Mayors and Recorders]

In Gilbert’s day a Recorder was a person whose official duty it was to register writings or transactions; he was the chief judicial officer of a city or borough (75). Today, only the second clause applies (142).

M.P.s [M.P.s baronetted, Sham Colonels gazetted]

Members of Parliament.


Advanced to the rank of baronet. A baronet is a hereditary title ranking above a knight and below a baron. It is the lowest hereditary title in England.

Sham Colonels

Individuals given honorary, but otherwise meaningless, titles like Kentucky Colonels.


Published in the London Gazette –– an official British newspaper for announcement of government appointments, military promotions, legal notices, etc. You may be interested to learn (and then, again, you may not) that the word comes from the Italian gazza, or “magpie”: a gossip. Another explanation is that it came from the Italian coin gazetta (again taking its name from the bird) and was either the sum paid for a paper or for the privilege of reading it (229).

Aldermen [And second-rate Aldermen knighted]

An alderman is a civic official, next in rank to a mayor and above an ordinary councilor (286). Here is Bierce’s cynical definition: “An ingenious criminal who covers his secret thieving with a pretence of open marauding” (39).

Takings [ten per cent on the takings]

A colloquial term for the receipts (115).

Present [I present any lady]

Introduce the person into high-class social gatherings. The ultimate boost is to be presented at Court at a Drawing Room (274).

Double-barrel [Quote me as their great double-barrel]

The literal meaning of this is presumably a double-barreled gun, which we can take figuratively as anything –– or anyone –– of more than ordinary power or importance. Some authorities (142, 161, 286) believe it is an allusion to anyone with a hyphenated name, with its implication of uppercrusthood. In any event, the overall impression is certainly that of a person of importance.

Robinson Crusoe

The eponymous protagonist of Defoe’s well-known novel about a seaman who was shipwrecked on a small island where he lived by his wits for 28 years. When finally rescued, he didn’t even own an opera hat.

Jib [Would jib at their wearing apparel]


Selection [I sit, by selection]

Chosen from among many candidates.