Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Cox and Box

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Stop [whereby a man . . . can leave this world, and yet stop in it]

Go on living, as in a stop-over.

Doating [only one obstacle to my doating upon her]

Former spelling of doting, to be foolishly sentimental or sloppily affectionate.

Romance [(stage direction)]

A sentimental and expressive musical number.


A holiday resort town in Kent. Stedman (273) notes that Burnand lived there after he retired.


Another holiday resort town in Kent. Those gates have nothing to do with hinged doors; they come from the Danish word for “road” and are an echo from the ancient days of the Scandinavian immigrations.

Life Guards

A regiment of the Household Cavalry (142). For more details see Utopia, Limited.


A slang term applied to certain companies of soldiers distinguished by their blue uniforms. (142, 158).

Basin called slop

An awkward way of saying slop basin, which can be a bowl for holding the dregs from tea cups at the tea table, or a container for kitchen garbage, or (shudder!) a chamber pot! (142, 320).

Put … back … up

“To put one’s back up” means to antagonize (274) or annoy (142). I suppose it is derived from the way a threatened cat arches its back. (The clumsy way Burnand expresses this shows why he could not compete with Gilbert as a librettist.)


Harassed or tormented.

Fraction [Between you, then, there was a fraction?]

A break, a falling-out, a domestic spat.

Action [threatened with an action]

Probably a court action for breach of promise.

Ablution [when I had finished my ablution]

Washing –– usually hands and face.

Hose [my hose, my socks]

Tight-fitting breeches or pants.

Linen for nose

A clumsy way of saying “handkerchief.”

Under the rose

A colloquialism for “in secret” or “in confidence” (115). Presumably derived from the Latin sub rosa (which has the same meaning) “from the ancient use of the rose at meetings as a symbol of the sworn confidence of the participants” (250).

Tiff [you left in a tiff?]

In a huff.

Dulcet [sort of a dulcet dirge]



Funeral music, from the Latin dirige, the first word of the prescribed service for the dead. See also The Yeomen of the Guard.


The very edge (of the cliff).

Throe [in an agony throe]

Violent pang.

Chalked [where the Coast Guard’s way was chalked]

Two interpretations can apply. One proposal is that the coastal patrol’s path showed up white on the chalk cliffs that are characteristic of the English south coast (251). The other is that the Guard’s route was shown by chalk marks on stones (142). My vote is with the first interpretation. Readers may want to know that in the days before electronic communications, Coast Guardsmen patrolled the shore on foot watching for vessels in distress.

One pound seventeen and sixpence

In the old British monetary system, this meant one pound, seventeen shillings, and six pennies. There were twenty shillings to the pound, and twelve pennies (or pence) to the shilling. In our opinion the system was invented to confuse American tourists, and we are gratified that the British gave it up. Now if they would just learn to drive on the righteous side of the road.

Barnet Races

Horse races at the Barnet fair, in the environs of London.


A British coin worth two shillings and six pence, or about sixty cents (American) at that time.

Toss up

Flip a coin.

Sixpence [my tossing sixpence]

A coin worth six old pennies or half a shilling. Prestige (245) proposes that a “tossing coin” is one with two heads or two tails. In the conAct that seems altogether likely.


A coin worth one-twentieth of a pound sterling.

Leads [I’ve a mind to pitch you out on the leads]

Pronunciation: leds

Sheet-lead roof covering.


Pronunciation: boo-LONE

A French seaport on the English Channel, popular with the British upper crust. As Rees (251) puts it, “Mrs. Wiggins was really moving above her station in Boulogne. Ramsgate and Margate were visited more commonly by the Coxes and Boxes of this world.”