Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Utopia, Ltd.

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Act I


Ginger beer, a carbonated soft drink (257).

Floated [Successfully I’ve floated]

Raised capital by selling stock or by other means.

Apple-stalls [And sudden falls in apple-stalls]

Fruit stands.


A Gilbertian term meaning “to be incorporated.”

R.N. [Captain Sir Edward Corcoran, R.N.]

Royal Navy.

Gauls [terrify the simple Gauls]


Saxon [And how the Saxon and the Celt]

Germanic people who invaded (and settled in) England in the fifth century.


Pronunciation: Americans generally pronounce it SELT, but most Britishers prefer KELT. Either is acceptable.

The native people of Ireland, Scottish highlands, and Wales.

Maxim gun and Nordenfelt

Hiram Stevens Maxim and Torsten Nordenfelt (Anglicized to Thorsten Nordenfeldt) had much in common; both were immigrants living and working in England; both were prolific inventors; and both joined forces to establish the Maxim-Nordenfeldt Company in the early 1880s. Maxim, an American, invented the first fully satisfactory machine gun. It was water-cooled and employed the recoil of the barrel to eject the spent shell and reload cartridges from a belt (89). Nordenfelt, a Swede, also invented a machine gun, but of vastly different design, employing up to a dozen barrels. Nordenfelt was made a royal Chamberlain by Oscar II of Sweden in 1885. Maxim became a British citizen in 1900 and was knighted by Queen Victoria the following year (56). One of his less notable inventions was an airplane powered by twin steam engines. He never managed to make it fly, but aside from that it was an engineering triumph (89).

[Note: Older editions of the libretto spell the Swede’s name as “Nordenfelt,” while newer editions spell it “Nordenfeldt.” Either is correct.]

Unbend your sails

Remove your sails from the yards. See page 49.

Lower your yards

Take down the spars that hold up the sails.

Unstep your masts

Lift your masts out of the ship altogether.

Cut your canvas short

Place minimum reliance on sails.

Float it [I’ll float it as a Company Limited!]

Set it on its way.

Company Limited

(See head of chapter.)

Peers [If possible, all Peers and Baronets]

In the United Kingdom, all noblemen above the rank of baronet. See also HMS Pinafore, Iolanthe, The Gondoliers, and The Zoo.


In the United Kingdom a baronet ranks above a knight but below a baron. It is the lowest rank of nobility that is hereditary, but it does not qualify the holder for a seat in the House of Lords. (These are useful things to know if you are ever made a baronet.) See also The Sorcerer and Ruddigore.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal to which Mr Goldbury refers is not the one we know today. When Gilbert wrote the libretto the ill-fated canal venture started by Ferdinand de Lesseps (The Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique) had recently collapsed. The ensuing investigations were even then creating sensational international headlines as reports of incredible corruption surfaced almost daily. The now-existing Panama Canal was not seriously contemplated by the United States government until early in the 1900s (208, 282).

Twitted [with dishonesty be twitted]


Perdition [that signifies perdition]

Utter loss. (It can mean even worse, but I think that is all Mr. Goldbury has in mind.)

Monetary [monetary dunce]

Pertaining to money.

Winding-Up Petition

The process of stopping a company from trading by reason of its insolvency (142).


Prominent family of wealthy bankers. For more details see Iolanthe.


Those who are sent in to manage the disposal of a company’s assets when it has gone bankrupt.

Joint Stock Company [The Joint Stock Company’s Act of Sixty-Two]

A joint stock company is one in which the shareholders are free to sell their shares on the open market. Whaley (310) says Gilbert made a slight editorial error. (“Company’s” should read “Companies.” Tush!)

Act of Sixty-Two

The Parliamentary act (passed in 1862) establishing limits of liability for stockholders. Knight (177) argues that an act of 1856 was actually more instrumental in establishing such limits, to which Turnbull (294) replies that “fifty six” wouldn’t rhyme with “you.”

Verity [Henceforward, of a verity]

In truth.

Pink [Of sovereigns all the pink!]



Audacity, chutzpah.

Mercantile [this mercantile pact]

Pertaining to commerce and merchandising.