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

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Act I

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.

Hyporchematic [We’ve a choir hyporchematic]

A hyporchema is a song accompanied by dancing and mime; hence a choir that sings and dances (66).

Choreutae [the choreutae of that cultivated age]

Pronunciation: ko-ROOT-ee

The plural of choreuta, a chorus member in the Greek theater (66).

Captious [all but captious criticaster]

Ill-tempered fault-finding.


A really bad critic. This may be a dig at a misguided journalist who was identified only as “Our Captious Critic” and who once wrote a most disparaging column about The Gondoliers in particular and the Savoy operas in general. As for professional critics, Oliver Wendell Holmes had these lines: “Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left.”


The leader of the chorus in the Greek theater (66). Barker (26) says the term may imply many additional functions, including everything from finance to artistic direction.

Attic [the early Attic stage]

Pertaining to Attica, a region of south-east Greece wherein Athens is located. May be interpreted as meaning Athenian (26).

Oboloi [all in oboloi and drachmae]

Pronunciation: OH-bull-oh

Plural of obol, an Attic coin of small value.


Pronunciation: DROCK-me

Plural of drachma, another Attic coin, worth six oboloi. Try that on your slot machine.

Kalends [at the Kalends that are Greek!]

Pronunciation: KAL-ends

As far back as the emperor Augustus, the expression has been used as meaning “never” (260). The word, is a variation of calends, the first day of the month with the Romans, who borrowed it from the Etruscans. Calends were not used in the Greek calendar and so the expression is equivalent to “the second Monday of next week” (115). (As Edwin so sagely observes, you don’t find two Mondays together.)

Periphrastic [Periphrastic methods spurning]

Verbose. The literal meaning is “circumlocutory.”