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

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Act I

Rubs [Fortune’s rubs]

“Rub” is a colloquialism for a difficulty or an obstacle (115). Hyder (162) reminds us of “ay, there’s the rub,” from Hamlet’s soliloquy (Act III, Scene I).

Troth [may keep their troth]

Wedding vows.

Prig [a miserable prig]

Someone who makes a big show of virtue. As Johnson (165) defines it: “A pert, conceited, saucy, pragmatical little fellow.”

Dissemble [We must dissemble]

Disguise the truth. See also HMS Pinafore.

Bread and cheese

The bare necessities of life (54). See also The Gondoliers.

Autonomy [of monarchial autonomy]


Bonhomie [I don’t indulge in levity or compromising bonhomie]

Pronunciation: Anglicize to rhyme with autonomy. Sorry!

French for “cheerful comradeship.”

Jape [I don’t see joke or jape any]

“Joke” and “jape” mean pretty much the same thing: a jest.


Pronunciation: …-HAY-p’ny

An Englishman’s way of saying “two-and-a-half cents.” It is a common expression implying disdain (234).

Snuff box

A small container for powdered tobacco. The powder, when inhaled, induces sneezing. It was often attended with elaborate ceremonial flourishes.

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.