Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Mikado

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

Act II

Willow [Willow, titwillow, titwillow]

The willow tree has long been associated with sadness. Remember "I'll hang my harp on a weeping willow tree"? Then in Othello, Desdemona sings a song that ends thus: "Her salt tears fell from her, and soften'd the stones; Sing willow, willow, willow" (54). Sullivan also set her words to music (163). See also Patience.


Any small bird.

Callous [if you remain callous and obdurate]




Congo [From the Congo or the Niger]

The general region of central and west Africa (now largely the nation calling itself the Democratic Republic of Congo) drained by what was then called the Congo River.


The general region of northwest Africa drained by the Niger River. Many critics have complained that tigers are not native to the Congo, Niger, or any other regions of Africa. Not only that, but Niger does not rhyme with tiger. Ko-Ko's education (a drop-out Ph.D. in tailoring) obviously was not of the highest order. Gilbert, presumably, was only kidding.

Derry down derry

A meaningless expression often used as a filler line in folk songs.


An official whose duty it is to keep a record of official transactions. He is also licensed to perform civil marriages (245).

Told off [told off to be killed]

Hyder (161) points out that the expression means counted off, "as one would pick a man out of a rank of soldiers for some unpleasant duty." I suppose that would be used in place of the less dignified "Eeny meeny miny mo … " The roots of the term also explain why bank clerks are called "tellers." I knew you'd like to know.