Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Princess Ida

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Act I


To humiliate.

Interested motives

The hidden, usually selfish, reasons for taking a position that seems to be based on high principles.

Ascetic [I'm sure I'm no ascetic]

One who is sternly self-denying. The word derives from the Greek asketes, or hermit.


A half-suppressed laugh.


A sly or furtive look expressive of malignity, lasciviousness, or triumph (75).

Prejudice [To everybody's prejudice]

Detracting from reputation.

Bandy [How dare you bandy words with me?]

To knock back and forth, or to wrangle. The word also means bent, as in bandy-legs (bow legs), to which Cyril alludes in his reply, "No need to bandy aught that appertains to you." The second meaning goes back to the seventeenth century, when a curved stick called a "bandy" was used in bandy ball, a game similar to hockey (12).



Knave [as a traitor knave]

A dishonest person. The miserable, poorly educated sort who would write an unfavorable review of this book.


Not a gentleman; one who arrogates to himself merits which he does not deserve (56).

Safety matches

A comparative novelty at the time the opera was produced (178).

Knowledge box [they light only on the knowledge box]

The head (56).

Dr. Watts's hymns [She'll scarcely suffer Dr. Watts's hymns]

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was an English theologian and prolific author of hymns, his total output reaching some 600, including "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." His works are available today in a reprint of his Hymns and Spiritual Songs, originally published in 1707.

Sue [humbly sue]


Sillery [And pops of Sillery]

A high-class wine produced in and around the village of Sillery in Champagne (228).

Bower [We'll storm their bowers]

The OED (229) offers several meanings including a dwelling, a poetic word for an idealized abode, a shady recess, or a lady's private apartment or boudoir. Any one of those would fit the context.

Triolet [Oh dainty triolet]

A poem of eight lines and a specific rhyming pattern, which starts out AB, AA, ABAB … Stedman (273) calls attention to the song "Expressive glances," in which the word occurs. The verses of the song are themselves close to being triolets.

Heigho-let [or gentle heigho-let]

Heigh-ho is an exclamation of weariness. "Heigho-let" is Gilbert's variation to rhyme with triolet and violet and, as he so thoughtfully goes on to say, means a little sigh.

Urbanity [On sweet urbanity]

Polished politeness.


Pertaining to emptiness or silliness. In other words, sweet nothings for those shell-like ears.