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 I

Apostrophe [You have interrupted an apostrophe, sir!]

A digression in speech to address some person or personification that may or may not be present.

Reserve [We might reserve that point]

To postpone a decision, particularly on a legal issue.

Earnest [an earnest of your desire]

Token or proof.

Adamant [but there I am adamant]

Absolutely unyielding. See also Princess Ida.


Disciplined and humiliated.

Condign [Of a hero fine, with grief condign]


Dock [in a dull, dark dock]

A small enclosed space, or cell. The original meaning was a rabbit hutch, fowl pen, or cage (229). This is not to be confused with the criminal court-room dock, which is an enclosure for the accused prisoner.

Pestilential [In a pestilential prison]

Extremely unhealthy.

Chippy [a cheap and chippy chopper]
Bab sketch of a cheap and chippy chopper

Unwell; seedy. Generally used to describe the results of overindulgence in eating and drinking, etc. (115). Alternatively, Walters (302) thinks "chopper" refers to the ax or sword and, being cheap, is unlikely to do the work neatly, but must chip away. Rees (254) proposes that chippy means the cutting edge of the instrument is ragged (chipped). See entry for "Awry" in The Yeomen of the Guard. The following sketch is from one of Gilbert's Bab Ballads.

Respited [to be respited at the last moment]

Granted a temporary stay of execution.

Happy Dispatch
Sketch of The Happy Dispatch

A euphemism for Hara-Kiri, from hara meaning "belly" and kiri, meaning "cut." It refers to suicide by disembowelment as formerly practiced, with due ceremony, by the highest classes in Japan when in disgrace. Knight (178) adds that the suicide's family was also required to die with him unless a special writ was obtained from the emperor. The practice went out in the late 1800s.

Fighting cock [You'll live like a fighting cock]

Brewer (56) says this means to "have a profusion of the best food" so as to increase endurance and pugnacity. (Cock fighting is still a popular activity in many rural communities throughout the world.)

Distracted [Yum-Yum distracted]

Frantically unhappy.

Line [If you can draw the line]

A firm and precise limit. The stage direction "Preparing rope" gives visual emphasis to the pun.

Hear, Hear, Hear!

English expression of approval. See also The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe, and The Zoo.

Eventime [Life's eventime comes much too soon]

This is apparently Gilbert's made-up contraction of evening time. He could as well have used the established word eventide, which means the same thing. Metaphorically speaking, he is referring to late middle age.


A compliment or salute directed toward some person or cause. The word supposedly came from the ancient custom of floating a piece of toast in the drink hoisted during the speech (55).

Three times three

Brewer (56) has good deal to say about the number three. As a start it is associated with many pertinent matters in classical beliefs. The world was under the control of three gods: Jupiter (heavens), Neptune (sea) and Pluto (underworld). Jupiter is represented with three-pronged lightning, Neptune with a trident, and Pluto with a three-headed dog. There were three Fates, three Harpies, three Graces, and three Furies. In Christianity we find the Holy Trinity, and the three graces: faith, hope and charity. Going one step beyond, as Pooh-Bah has done, we multiply the potency of the number by multiplying it by itself, producing a trinity of trinities. Brewer lists many expressions using the number nine, ranging from cats with nine lives to the nine muses. He mentions that the cat-o'-nine tails was considered best for punishing evil-doers; being a trinity of trinities, it would be "both more sacred and more efficacious." Finally, he mentions that "We drink a Three-times-three to those most highly honored."

Blight [Rain blight on our festivities]

Ruin or frustration.

Perjured [I claim my perjured lover]

Guilty of violating an oath.