Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Princess Ida

Click a term to expand the definition; Search for a term; Select other Opera Chapters; Go to the Lexicon menu for introductory and afterword content..

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

Act II

Mate [with whom you give each other mate.]

Refers to the winning position in chess in which one player has trapped the other's king. Asimov (11) says the pertinent term "checkmate" is from "a Persian expression meaning the king is dead."


A baby carriage, or pram.

Paragon [Paragon of common sense]

A model of perfection.

Erudition [Running fount of erudition]

Scholarship. Bierce (39) defines it as "dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull."


The Roman version of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and patroness of the arts and trades. Rumor has it that she sprang, with a tremendous battle cry and fully armed, from the brain of Jupiter. Wow!

Unillumined [Their unillumined eyes]



New converts, novices.

Rule of three [That's rule of three]

The routine for solving simple problems in arithmetical proportions. Given three terms in a proportion, you can find the fourth by multiplying the second and third and dividing by the first. Behold: 2 is to 4 as 6 is to X. To find X, multiply 4 times 6, then divide by 2. So X equals 12. Now try this: given that a man's brain is to an elephant's as a woman's brain is to a man's, who is smarter -- a man, a woman, or an elephant?

Pedant [The narrow-minded pedant]

One meaning is an unimaginative, literal-minded person.

Swan, Edgar, Gask, et al.

These were all smart London shops with compound names. All are now defunct. A few details may be gleaned from Goodman (140) and Bradley (47).

Chaos [let Chaos come again!]

Everyone knows that chaos with a lower case c means utter confusion. With an upper case C, however, it refers to the state of the universe before the creation, when it was even more disorganized than it is today.

Abstract Philosophy [I, madam, on Abstract Philosophy]

Theoretical approaches to the search for truth.

Hypotheses [Given these three hypotheses]

Alternative assumptions or propositions.


The person named remains on stage. Latin for "He (or she) remains" (66). Manent applies to more than one person.

Coronal [Time weaves my coronal]


Ween [Yet humble second shall be first, I ween]

I fancy.

Paling [Fence and paling]

Picket fence.

Bull-dogs [That bull-dogs feed on throttles]

Jumping ahead for a moment, throttle, as defined in the OED (229) means throat. This naturally leads one to interpret bulldogs as meaning pugnacious bowlegged dogs. Knight (177), however, believes that Gilbert meant horseflies. But, wait! There is another candidate. Brewer (54) says that at Oxford and Cambridge the official in charge of discipline was protected by two intimidating attendants called bulldogs. This leads Stone (283) to propose that as Gilbert's intent. Knight and Stone are welcome to their views, and so are you, but my vote is with the canines.


As mentioned above: throats (targets most tempting to any self-respecting dog).

Broken bottles [broken bottles on a wall]

Refers to the practice of cementing pieces of broken glass on top of walls to discourage would-be intruders from climbing over.