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

Bubble [Of several Companies bubble]

A slang term for a dishonest, speculative corporate formation. The best known was the infamous South Sea Bubble of 1720, which left thousands of speculators in financial ruin.

Floated [As soon as they’re floated]

A new company is said to be floated when it has raised enough capital to engage in whatever enterprise it has in mind.


Supplied with a promissory note on bank of issue promising to pay its face value to bearer on demand (75).


Pronunciation: ay-CAR-tay

A card game for two players, using 32 cards. A popular pastime in polite society (184A).

Guineas [five guineas a night]

A monetary unit worth 21 shillings, i.e., £1.05. From 1663 to 1813 Britain issued these gold coins named after the gold’s African source: Guinea. See also Patience and Princess Ida.

Preferment [To fill any place or preferment]

An appointment to a dignified official, or clerical, position of honor.

Fêting [At junket or fêting]


Interment [sometimes attend an interment]


State [I come here in state]

With pomp and dignity as befits a person of exalted station.

Guard of honour

Splendidly attired military men who stand at attention and add pageantry to the proceedings.

Off-hand [They are very off-hand]

Disrespectfully free and easy.

Deportment [You want deportment]

Bearing, posture, behavior, and the creation of a good general visual impression.


Pronunciation: soop-SONE

French for “suspicion” (in the sense of just a trace). In some performances the duke (not being fluent in French) pronounces it “SOUP-sahn,” leading Marco and Giuseppe to ask hungrily, “soup’s on?” (181).


An old French dance somewhat like a minuet but less stately (250). Knight (178) says it originated with the Gavots, the inhabitants of the district of Gav in the Province of Dauphiné. See also Ruddigore.

Imperious [a pose imperious]

Haughty, arrogant, and dictatorial.

Deucedly … Dreadfully … Confoundedly

Asimov (11) calls attention to the cultural differences exhibited here. The duke uses “deucedly” as a euphemism for “damnably.” The duchess and Casilda cannot bring themselves to use even the euphemism and must settle for “dreadfully.” The ill-bred gondoliers use “confoundedly.” Asimov points out that confound at one time took on the meaning of “send to hell.”

Over head and ears

Completely (56).


Born under the influence of an unlucky star.

Bisected [to have been bisected]

Divided into two equal parts.

Lieges [the loyal lieges]

Those who owe allegiance. More generally, feudal vassals (feudatories).


A shrill kind of trumpet, the kind you see page boys blowing.

Quandary [Free from this quandary]

Predicament or state of perplexity.

Premé, stalì!

Pronunciation: PRAY-may, stah-LEE!

These are shouts of communication between gondoliers. Their literal meanings have to do with how the oars are to be stroked. In effect they are the shouted equivalent of turn-signals on a car and indicate how the boats are to be maneuvered. For example, if a gondolier sees a gondola on a course that threatens a head-on collision with his own boat, he might shout “Premé!” which means each boat should be veered to the left and so pass one another right side to right side. Conversely, “Stalì!” means veer right and so pass left side to left side. The words have somewhat different implications in other situations, but we needn’t go into them here. This information is based on writings of John Ruskin (259).