Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Princess Ida

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


Noddle [Fears a crack upon his noddle]


Swaddle [And he's only fit to swaddle]

To swaddle is to wrap a newborn baby. The meaning here is that he is only fit to be swaddled.

Cuirass [This tight-fitting cuirass]

Pronunciation: kwi-RASS

A breastplate of leather or metal -- in this case, steel.


Armor for the upper arms (Gilbert's misspelling of "brassart") (250).

Cribbage pegs

Little jiggers (Swahili for "pegs"), used in scoring cribbage games. Terry (286) explains that the items of armor Arac refers to are cuishe, knee-cop, greave or jamb, and sollert -- providing protection from hip to toe, in that order. Isn't this impressive? We retail state secrets, too.

Shape suits [This is what Gilbert says the brothers are wearing after removal of all that armor.]
Gilbert sketch of a Shape suit

You will find below a copy of Gilbert's own sketch of a shape suit. It could best be described as tight-fitting pants and snug pullover tunic with decorative slashes. The colors are given as dark red except for the slashes, which are pink. For whatever psychological inferences you may care to draw, the fellow in the sketch looks like Gilbert himself.

[Commentary on armor]

History shows that real life warriors have on occasion doffed their armor before going into battle. Young David about to face Goliath is perhaps the first example, but see also Goldberg (138).

Virago [Here's a virago!]

Pronunciation: The correct pronunciation is open to debate. Most dictionaries say vih-RAY-go, but most people seem to prefer vih-RAH-go. I suggest using whichever form is more popular in your environment.

A shrewish woman. A second, archaic meaning is a masculine woman. Gama meant whichever interpretation would most infuriate the men. See also The Grand Duke.


Pronunciation: TER-mah-gant

A violent quarrelsome female. See Brewer (54) for derivation of the word.

[Note on Gama's insults]

Gama's insults are disappointingly flat, merely two-dimensional. While in Hildebrand's prison he should have studied such masters as Samuel Johnson. That worthy fellow once found it imperative to insult a total stranger, so he thus expressed himself (I paraphrase): "Sir, under pretence of operating a brothel, your wife is a receiver of stolen goods!" (45).]

Ejaculate [And piously ejaculate]

Blurt out.

Hungary [Oh, doughty sons of Hungary!]

Why has Gilbert dragged Hungary into the proceedings at this advanced point? Perhaps because Hungarians are traditionally known as fierce warriors. Berlioz's stirring and popular Rákózy March (written in 1846) exemplifies the martial association. Kravetz (181) says that Berlioz averred that the theme came from "an old Hungarian war song of unknown authorship." These characters may not be real Hungarians, but they are every bit as war-like. Bradley (48) shows a second verse that appeared in the American first edition. Here it is:

But if our hearts assert their sway,
    (And hearts are all fantastical)
We shall be more disposed to say
These words enthusiastical
Oh prosper, Prince Hilarion!
    In mode complete
    May you defeat
Each meddlesome Hungarian!

Chambers (72) suggests that Gilbert may have composed the second verse before composing the first. In the second verse he dragged in Hungarian simply to rhyme with Hilarion, leading him then in the first verse to drag in ironmongery to rhyme with Hungary. On the other hand, it is conceivable that Hungary was introduced simply to rhyme with ironmongery (48). Clearly, Gilbert was not at his most facile in these verses.


Hardware; in this case weapons and armor.

Meet [it's meet that we consult the great Potential Mysteries]


Subjunctive [The five Subjunctive Possibilities]

Pertaining to the mood (or mode) of a verb implying a condition, doubt, wish, or hypothesis. This served as the inspiration for Lady Blanche's song "Come, mighty Must!"

Abjure [abjure tyrannic Man!]


Staunch [I alone am staunch!]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with launch.

Firm, constant, loyal, and trustworthy. See also HMS Pinafore.

Experiments [Experiments are made on humble subjects]

Knight (178) suggests that this derives from Fiat experimentum in corpore vile, a saying that arose from the experience of Murat, a French humorist who, in a trance, narrowly escaped dissection.

Clay [try our grosser clay]

In the context, read "less precious raw material."

We will walk this world …

These noble lines are in quotation marks because Gilbert took them from Tennyson's poem The Princess.