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

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Act II

Sap [Well done, you sly old sap]

This meaning of the word is related to the military process of undermining a wall: figuratively related to “stealthy or insidious methods of attacking or destroying something” (228). Walters (301) notes that the word is used as a mild form of abuse in a friendly, jocular manner. The word is derived from the French word sappe, shovel (266).

Mole [cunning old mole]

The work of the military sapper involves burrowing underground much as a mole does under your lawn or garden. (The three conspirators are pleased with their undercover plan.)

Noddle [It’s safe in my noddle]

A jocular expression for the head (75).



Biscuits [plate of mixed biscuits]

These are what Americans call cookies. Queen Victoria’s drawing rooms had been noted for their lack of victuals, but after this line appeared things at the palace improved, or so it is claimed.

Comeliness [In her magnificent comeliness]

Pronunciation: KUM-lee-ness

Grace, good-looks, and attractiveness.

Eleven stone two [an English girl of eleven stone two]

A stone is a unit of weight equal to 14 pounds. Eleven stone two, then would be 14x11 + 2 = 156 pounds.

“Field” tails off and the muffs diminish

The poorer riders are left strung out behind and the worst drop out altogether.

Eleven maids out –– and eleven maids in –– and perhaps an occasional “maiden over!”

Let’s poke through this thicket one step at a time. In the game of cricket there are eleven players on each team. The “eleven maids out” are the ones whose turn it is to play defensively much as one baseball team is in the field trying to keep the other from scoring. The “eleven maids in,” then would be the team whose turn it is “at bat.” An “over” comprises a series of six bowls (equivalent to pitches in baseball). A “maiden over” is one in which no one manages to score. Gilbert puts the two words in quotation marks to call attention to his pun.

Punts [She golfs, she punts]

Poles a boat along a river. (This often requires considerable skill and agility.)

Till all is blue

Until after dawn and the sky is blue again. See also The Grand Duke.

Drum [At ball or drum]

“An assembly of fashionable people at a private house, held in the evening; much in vogue during the latter half of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century” (228). A ball, on the other hand, would be a public gathering. Brewer (54) claims that the term “drum” comes from the resemblance of the noise to that of drumming up recruits. Tea parties became “kettle drums,” and really wild affairs “drum majors.” On the other hand, Bradley (48) suggests the possibility that “tea” suggests “kettle,” which suggests “kettle drum,” and that suggests. “drum.” I confess I find neither explanation truly satisfying.

Rill [the mountain rill]

A little stream.

Maxims [These maxims you endorse]

Brief rules for behavior.

Unfurl [Your character true unfurl]


Fusty [All musty, fusty rules despite]

Stuffy and out of date. Derived from fust, meaning moldy and ill-smelling (165).


Victorian women wore full-length skirts, while little girls romped around in short skirts. That is the allusion here.

Bruited [through the city bruited]


Toil [caught in Scaphio’s ruthless toil]


Deigned [my sovereign has deigned]


Rosal [And the earth is red and rosal]

An obsolete term for “rosy” (141).

Asinorum pons [For that asinorum pons I have crossed without assistance]

Pronunciation: ASS-eh-NORE-um PONS

This translates as “bridge of asses,” a Latin expression applied early in the sixteenth century to a diagram showing how to find the middle terms to arguments. The allusion seems to relate to the difficulty of getting asses to cross a bridge. The name is also given to the fifth proposition of Euclid, which sets forth that, if a triangle has two of its sides equal, the angles opposite to these sides are also equal (105). Maybe by now you are sorry you asked.

Paragons [of prudish paragons]

Models of perfection.

Tarantella [Mentioned in the stage directions]

A fast, whirling dance from southern Italy. It was originally thought to cure tarantula bites. Kravetz (182) says the concluding music of the nightmare song in Iolanthe is in the form of a tarantella.

Ogress [Like some remorseless ogress]

A female ogre. Derived from the man-eating giant of fairy tales, ogre has also come to mean “a monstrously ugly, cruel, or barbarous person” (250).

Irruption [most unmannerly irruption]

Violent invasion.


Good things given or asked for –– or even both; like this lexicon. See also Ruddigore, The Yeomen of the Guard, and Cox and Box.

Fico [A fico for such boons, say we!]

Pronunciation: FEE-ko

This is Italian for fig and the sentiment is much the same as “We don’t care a fig!” Snapping one’s fingers is an appropriate accompaniment. For the intriguing history of the word, see entry for “Fig” in The Yeomen of the Guard.

Government by Party

This has been standard operating procedure in England since around 1680, in the reign of Charles II (319).