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

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Enter part of a term; e.g., "gill" for Gillow's.

Act I

Pillory [Put him in a pillory]

One of those frames used to clamp an offender and hold him up for public ridicule and to serve, perhaps, as an inviting target for over-ripe fruit, elderly eggs, and deceased felines.

Rack [Rack him with artillery]

This can be taken to mean “punish him.” If you are feeling more literal, or just a teeny weeny wee bit bloodthirsty, you can relate the word to that instrument of torture that was used to pull the victim’s limbs out of their sockets. Thus, “rack him with artillery” might mean to blow him to pieces.

Doughty [two doughty heroes thunder]


Verbum sat.

Pronunciation: VERB-um sat

Abbreviation for the Latin expression verbum satis sapienti, meaning a word to the wise is sufficient. So why did it take so many words to explain it to you?

Steps into … shoeses

When you “step into someone’s shoes” you take his place. “Shoeses” is Gilbert’s way of making “shoes” even more plural.

[Historic note: At one time the laws of Montana held that “Anyone who slays or disables another in a duel must support the victim’s family” (189).]

Malcontents [malcontents abuse you]

Those who are chronically dissatisfied, perhaps even rebellious.

Penitential fires

The punishments of hell.

Ribaldry [the ribaldry that from you falls]

Pronunciation: RIB-eldry

Vulgar, coarse, and mocking speech.

Wayward [wayward fate]

Unsteady and unpredictable.

Regale [Regale you, sir]

Honor or venerate as royalty. A second meaning has to do with giving pleasure, perhaps with food and drink (26).

Ascetic [I’m not an ascetic]

One who practices self-denial. In extreme cases such a person may even refrain from going to G&S shows.

Get up our hay [A variation on the old cliché]

make hay while the sun shines.

“What for” [He’ll give you “what for”]

I have heard the expression used as meaning a good scolding. Brewer (54), says it means to castigate thoroughly, or administer a sound thrashing.

By Jingo [by Jingo I’ll do it!]

A mild oath ascribed by some to a corruption of “St Gingoulph” and by others to the Basque word for God: Jinkao. Asimov (11), on the other hand, states that it is a euphemism for “by Jesus.” Brewer (54) says the word was used by conjurers of the seventeenth century. The important fact is that “We don’t want to fight, but by Jingo if we do … ” were the words of a music hall tune made popular in 1877 and still popular in the 1890s.


Literally, these are hooks used in a device for stretching cloth. The figurative meaning is “to keep someone in suspense.”

Spartan [this Spartan rule applies]

Simple, frugal, and severely disciplined.

Canons [The canons of dramatic art]

Sacred rules.

“Leading Business” [It’s “leading business,” pet]

In theatrical jargon: a starring role.


Boisterous fun or merry capers.

Grig [as merry as a grig]

A “merry grig” is widely understood to mean a lively, good-humored, pleasant companion (75, 115, 234). The roots of the term are subject to some disagreement. Does grig mean a “cricket” or a “Greek”? (There are also a few other, less-likely candidates.) Some authorities (54, 115) give the two equal credence. Others (11, 150, 181, 302, 320) subscribe to “cricket.” Other authorities favor “Greek.” Applegate (8), for example, noted that in Troilus and Cressida Shakespeare has “Then she’s a merry Greek,” and “Cressid ’mongst the merry Greeks.” Remember, too, that Ludwig (who uses the line) is planning to don a Greek costume from that very play –– and then goes on to say in short order, “Old Athens we’ll exhume!” I tend to side with “Greek” –– although a chirping cricket on a hearth would suit me about as well.

Tollolish [you’ll find our rule tollolish!]

The word is presumably derived from “tolerable.” In his Bab Ballad “The Mystic Selvagee,” Gilbert says: “Lord Nelson, too, was pretty well; that is, tol-lol-ish” (127). In the present context, we may infer that Ludwig’s rule will be easygoing and permissive. Perhaps the Earl Tolloller will be brought in as a consultant.

Noblesse [Your new noblesse]

French for “nobility.”

Dress [Must have a dress]

Costume or attire.

Athens [Old Athens we’ll exhume!]

The essence of classical civilization.


Dig out of the grave, or figuratively: revive.

Act II

Pipes [playing on pipes]

Pandaean pipes: musical wind instruments made of hollow reeds of different lengths.

Defile [As before you we defile]

The verb “defile” has two totally different meanings: (i) to parade in single file or (ii) to desecrate. Gilbert meant the former, but some under-rehearsed performing groups may more nearly illustrate the latter.

Till all is blue

Until daylight. See also Utopia, Limited.

Lesbian [Fill the bowl with Lesbian wine]

Pertaining to the Aegean island of Lesbos, now called Mytilene. Its wine enjoys a good reputation, to which Gilbert alludes in Thespis.

Diergeticon [Sing a Diergeticon]

Pronunciation: Pronounce it with a hard g.

Barker (26), Dunn (100) and Terry (286) opine that this is merely made-up Greek. Halton (147) calls it a doleful song. Cameron (66), on the other hand, says that the word is consistently misspelled in every known version of the libretto. Gilbert probably intended to say “diegerticon,” which “means a rousing song or anything stimulating or exciting. In some Greek writers it means aphrodisiac. Surely not in Gilbert.” I endorse Cameron.