Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Grand Duke

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Act I

Wedding Breakfast Bee

A bee is a social gathering for some useful purpose. The implication here is that Rudolph’s wedding breakfast will be a Dutch treat. Bring your own food and drink.


This is simulated German for “ginger beer.” Many of the famous Rhine wines come from areas with names ending in heim: Deidesheim, Wachenheim, Rüdesheim, and Dürkheim being four examples (226).


Again, a simulated teutonic word for a drink made of currant wine. The “milch” is added to remind you of Liebfraumilch: “Milk of the Good Lady,” a choice Rhenish wine. In short, Currantweinmilch, like Gingerbierheim, is a cobbled-up term intended to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing ale.


Pronunciation: a mean little darling

Of the many meanings of the word, “stingy” best describes the baroness, and also defines Rudolph’s idea of a perfect mate.

Jujube [Begin with a jujube]

Pronunciation: JOO-joob

A lozenge made of gelatin, fruit juice, sugar, etc. (Was Gilbert trying to sneak in his lozenge plot again?) The candy (something like a jelly bean) was originally flavored with the fruit of the jujube plant, which grows around the Mediterranean (229). Barker (26) kindly informs us that the scientific name for the jujube plant is Zizyphus jujuba.

Charlemagne [back to the reign of Charlemagne]

Charles the Great (a.d. 742 -814). He was king of the Franks from 768 to 814, and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire from 800 to 814.

Let [the houses wouldn’t let]


You’ve never been [you’ve never been and bought a newspaper]

Partridge (237) says that “you never did” is a Cockney catch phrase “expressive of humorous appreciation or approval or amazement.” We can interpret “you’ve never been” in the same vein: a gentle joshing at such wild extravagance.

Penny roll [As o’er our penny roll we sing]

The smallest item of bread that can be purchased at a bakery (251). See also Cox and Box.


Two shillings, six pence. A shilling was one-twentieth of a pound sterling and there were twelve pence to a shilling. That amount was worth about sixty American cents in those days.

Half-a-crown [A better man by half-a-crown]

A half crown was a British coin worth two shillings, six pence, or “two-and-six,” as mentioned above.

Abear [which I can’t abear]

A dialectal version of “bear” or abide.

Table beer

The cheapest kind of beer, analogous to table wine, only cheaper.

Waterbury watches

Cheap watches made in Waterbury, Connecticut. Production of these watches was started in 1879, and they soon became a byword for bottom-of-the-line timepieces (26, 103).



Trimmle and twitter [Who is all of a trimmle and twitter]

Comic dialectal phrase meaning trembling and upset.

Palate [your palate unpleasantly bitter]

The roof of the mouth. In this case the phrase probably means “a bad taste in the mouth.”

Dividers [When your legs are as thin as dividers]

A device shaped like an inverted V, much like the compass you use to draw circles. Draftsmen use them to divide a space into equal segments, or to transfer a given dimension from one location to another.

Insiders [plagued with unruly insiders]

Presumably Gilbert’s word for the digestive system. Walters (302) thinks it may refer to such charming creatures as tapeworms.


Pronunciation: gam-BOJE

Yellow complexion. Gamboge is a bright yellow gum-resin from a tree that grows in Southeast Asia. The word is derived from Cambodia (229).


The flesh about the cheek and jaws (75).

Swallow [With a pint of warm oil in your swallow:]

Pronunciation: Force yourself to make it rhyme with tallow.

Slang for “gullet” or “gorge” (228).

Tin-tacks [and a pound of tin-tacks in your chest:]

The OED (229) defines tin-tack as “A tack, or short light iron nail, coated with tin.” This is probably what we call carpet tacks, although thumb tacks have also been suggested. In either event they would be downright uncomfortable in your chest.

Vapours [down in the mouth with the vapours]

An old term referring to mental depression, nervous debility, or melancholy.

Morris wall-papers

Wallpaper designed by William Morris, the Victorian artist and poet who showed that utilitarian objects could also be beautiful. Stedman (273) points out that his patterns would be particularly appropriate for beetles; they usually featured complex patterns of vines, leaves, flowers, and sometimes birds or fruit. In Ruddigore Morris is referred to, anachronistically, by Robin Oakapple: “From Ovid and Horace to Swinburne and Morris.” He is also one of the aesthetes whose worshiping disciples were lampooned in Patience.


Partridge (234) cites several interpretations of jim-jams, including delirium tremens, the fidgets, and the creeps. But why go on? Rudolph has already described the malady to perfection.

Gruel [to give this man his gruel]

Brewer (56) says the expression means to put the man to death. In this case, we might say “a trying ordeal” (75).

Plebeian [This plebeian man of shoddy]

Pertaining to the unwashed masses. See also The Gondoliers.


An inferior kind of woolen cloth. See also The Gondoliers.


Comic dialectal version of “discover.”