Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Princess Ida

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


Rime [of frost and rime]

Frost and rime mean essentially the same thing: frozen condensation.

Unanneal [That fear can unanneal]


Loth [Is loth to war with women]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with quoth.

Same as loath: meaning strongly disinclined.

Popinjays [these popinjays, these tufted jack-a-dandy featherheads]

Vain, empty-headed fops, decked out in ornamental finery. The word is an old name for a parrot, related to the Greek papagos, which may put you in mind of Mozart's Magic Flute. See also The Yeomen of the Guard.


A little fop (115).


This pertains to the gold tassels worn by peers' sons, as already mentioned above.

Malignity [black malignity]

Extreme hate.


An archaic term for a person and not necessarily from the Isle of Wight. Frequently some element of commiseration or contempt may be implied (229).

Lank [Oh, don't the days seem lank and long]

Austere, thin, and unexciting.

German bands

Bradley (48) explains that "German musicians were a common sight on the streets of Victorian London. They tended to wear uniforms and play marches and other stirring oom-pah-pah numbers."

Music stands

Those German bands were apparently in the habit of erecting music stands right in the street (48).


Pronunciation: VOGG-ner

The great German librettist and composer of interminable operas.

Bade [I bade them go]

Pronunciation: bad


Organ boys [The organ boys, they stopped their noise]
Sketch of Organ grinder

The reference is to a barrel organ, or what Americans call a grind organ

Hurdy-gurds [and grinning herds of hurdy-gurds]
Sketch of a Hurdy-gurd

This is Gilbert's abbreviated form of the word hurdy-gurdist. A hurdy gurdy is a mechanical, stringed musical device. The sounds are produced by turning a handle that rotates a rosined wheel across the strings, which are stopped by means of keys. The term has also come to mean a barrel organ.

Fads [they feed my fads]

Read: They pamper my whims.

Ring [ere you pitch your ring]

An area set aside for a conflict, e.g., a boxing ring.


Idle chatter or gossip.

Arrant [It's an arrant molly-coddle]



An effeminate person (115).

Noddle [Fears a crack upon his noddle]


Swaddle [And he's only fit to swaddle]

To swaddle is to wrap a newborn baby. The meaning here is that he is only fit to be swaddled.

Cuirass [This tight-fitting cuirass]

Pronunciation: kwi-RASS

A breastplate of leather or metal -- in this case, steel.


Armor for the upper arms (Gilbert's misspelling of "brassart") (250).

Cribbage pegs

Little jiggers (Swahili for "pegs"), used in scoring cribbage games. Terry (286) explains that the items of armor Arac refers to are cuishe, knee-cop, greave or jamb, and sollert -- providing protection from hip to toe, in that order. Isn't this impressive? We retail state secrets, too.

Shape suits [This is what Gilbert says the brothers are wearing after removal of all that armor.]
Gilbert sketch of a Shape suit

You will find below a copy of Gilbert's own sketch of a shape suit. It could best be described as tight-fitting pants and snug pullover tunic with decorative slashes. The colors are given as dark red except for the slashes, which are pink. For whatever psychological inferences you may care to draw, the fellow in the sketch looks like Gilbert himself.

[Commentary on armor]

History shows that real life warriors have on occasion doffed their armor before going into battle. Young David about to face Goliath is perhaps the first example, but see also Goldberg (138).

Virago [Here's a virago!]

Pronunciation: The correct pronunciation is open to debate. Most dictionaries say vih-RAY-go, but most people seem to prefer vih-RAH-go. I suggest using whichever form is more popular in your environment.

A shrewish woman. A second, archaic meaning is a masculine woman. Gama meant whichever interpretation would most infuriate the men. See also The Grand Duke.


Pronunciation: TER-mah-gant

A violent quarrelsome female. See Brewer (54) for derivation of the word.

[Note on Gama's insults]

Gama's insults are disappointingly flat, merely two-dimensional. While in Hildebrand's prison he should have studied such masters as Samuel Johnson. That worthy fellow once found it imperative to insult a total stranger, so he thus expressed himself (I paraphrase): "Sir, under pretence of operating a brothel, your wife is a receiver of stolen goods!" (45).]