Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Princess Ida

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

Act II

Roguery [Brimming with joyous roguery]

Playful mischief.

Hind [Timid am I as a startled hind]

Doe, or female deer.

Well-born [Three well-born maids of liberal estate]

From upper-class families.

Liberal estate

Favorable worldly circumstances.

Sizars [You'll find no sizars here, or servitors]

Pronunciation: SIZE-ers

Students who are charged reduced fees in exchange for waiting table, and so forth.


Same as sizars. Stone (283) says this is the term of choice at Oxford, while sizar is preferred at Cambridge. Something to keep in mind when applying to either institution.

Tufts [You'll find no tufts to mark nobility]

This pertains to the gold tassels worn by peers' sons on their caps at Oxford (54).

Meretricious [False hair, and meretricious ornament]

Tawdry, cheap. Asimov (11) informs us the word is from the Latin meretrix, meaning a prostitute.

Impertinence [To reckon Nature an impertinence]

Something uncalled for and out of place.


Whether we like it or not. The expression is derived from Anglo Saxon willan, to desire, and nylan, the opposite. Thus what one must do whether he wants to or not, he does will he, nill he or willy-nilly (266).

Unseemly [unseemly in their mirth]

Indecorous, unbecoming.

Ranunculus bulbosus

The bulbous, or European, buttercup, "having a bulb shaped root and bright yellow flowers" (250).


The most famous astronomer of ancient Greece. He made an accurate assessment of the length of the year and originated the concept of latitude and longitude -- among other contributions. No one knows for sure exactly when he lived. The Encyclopædia Britannica (104) says he "flourished" from about 146 to 127 B.C. His date of birth is given variously as 194 and 160 B.C., and he apparently died about 130-120 B.C. I'm telling you all this because some G&S references worry about whether he was yet born when he supposedly determined latitude in "B.C. one sixty-three!" Well, maybe Psyche was misquoted.

Docked [and he docked his tail]

Cut off short. Asimov (11), however, reminds us that apes have no tails. Kipling could have added to his Just-So Stories: "How the Ape Lost His Tail."

Tub [he took his tub]
Sketch of He took his tub

Read: He learned to bathe.

Guinea [and paid a guinea to a toilet club]

Pronunciation: ginny

British monetary unit equal to £1.05, i.e., 21 shillings. In case you are not already in on the secret, there is no longer any such coin or paper money. For further details see Patience.

There was an old man from Kilkenny,
Who never spent more than a penny
  At any one loo,
  But this could accrue
On long walks to more than a guinea.

Toilet club

We are indebted to Hardwick (149) for explaining this recondite term: "An exclusive gentlemen's hairdressing establishment." Prestige (245) adds that it "could also be an exclusive Turkish bath establishment."

Darwinian Man

Alluding to Charles Darwin and his doctrine (published in 1859) "respecting the origin of species as derived from descent, with variation, from parent forms through the natural selection of those best adapted to survive in the struggle for existence" (290).

Étui [Here is an étui dropped by one of them]

Pronunciation: AY-twee

A small case suitable for carrying small articles such as sewing equipment or toiletries.


A saucy girl. See also The Sorcerer.

Rule the roast

Dominate and order others about. Often mistakenly transmuted into "rule the roost." Brewer (54) states that the expression was common in the fifteenth century. Shakespeare used the term, too.

Malice [Replete with malice spiteful]

Active ill-will, wishing to do harm.


Unreasonable refusal to do what's right.

Hoity-toity [Sing, hoity-toity!]

A derisive reference to people who affect airs. Brewer (56) says it derives from the French hoit-comme-toit, meaning flightiness.

Marry come up

Brewer (54) gives this interpretation: "May Mary come up to my assistance, or to your discomfort!"

Plantagenet [although a born Plantagenet]

Family name of a long succession of English kings, from Henry II (1154) through Richard III (1485). Brewer (56) says the name derives "from planta genista (broom plant), the family cognisance first assumed by the Earl of Anjou, the first of his race, during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as a symbol of humility." Readers may note that the humility did not take root.

Worm will turn

Brewer (54) explains this is an old expression meaning that even "the most abject of creatures will turn upon its tormentors if driven to extremity."

Are men [but “are men” stuck in her throat]

A pun on Shakespeare's “amen stuck in my throat” (in Macbeth Act II, Scene 2). Better it should have stuck in Gilbert’s throat.

Asphodel [Here in meadow of asphodel]

A collective term for lilies or daffodils. In Greek mythology, asphodel were the ever-blooming flowers that grew in the Elysian fields. Bunthorne found them attractive, too, if you'll recall.

Booby [And is the booby comely?]

Dunce. Ida isn't being personally insulting here. All men are dunces, at best, in her view.