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


In Britain solicitors are lawyers who can give legal advice, handle business transactions, and take cases before the lower courts. At the time of the opera, however, only barristers were allowed to plead cases in superior courts. If you were involved in a court case you had to retain a solicitor who would in turn "solicit" the services of a barrister. Keep this in mind next time you are arrested in Liverpool. For a more detailed exposition, see the entry for "Barrister" in Trial By Jury.

Cook the accounts

In colloquial English, "to cook" means to falsify (115). Need we say more?

Squared [I don't say that all these distinguished people couldn't be squared]

Bribed (115).

Abject [an abject grovel]

Degraded and contemptible.


Pronunciation: GRUV-el

To abase oneself, face down in the dirt or whatever happens to be underfoot. The word is derived from Anglo Saxon groof, belly (266).

Trammels [From scholastic trammels free]

Constraints. (Those were in the good old days when students were expected to behave.)

Seminary [from a ladies' seminary]

A school of secondary or higher level for young women (250).

Genius tutelary [Freed from its genius tutelary]

The OED (229) says regarding genius: "With reference to classical pagan belief: The tutelary god or attendant spirit allotted to every person at his birth to govern his fortune and determine his character … ; also, the tutelary and controlling spirit similarly connected with a place, an institution, etc." To this we may add that tutelary pertains to guardianship.

Marine Parade

In seaside resort cities, a waterfront street or promenade, usually with the beach on one side and major hotels, shops, etc., on the other. Since few American audiences understand the term, Pitti-Sing might substitute some familiar words such as board walk. I admit this would spoil Yum-Yum's dumb reference to a musical instrument, but that's a badly strained joke that might well be left out anyhow.

Etching of A marine parade

Tremendous swell

A person whose bearing and attire give every evidence of conspicuous consumption and self-esteem.

Prerogative [To our prerogative we cling]

A privilege appropriate to a person's rank or position. Pooh-Bah had a slew of 'em.

Age [But I would wait until you were of age!]

Of full legal age.

Years of discretion

Same as age of discretion: "In law, the age at which a person becomes legally responsible for certain acts and competent to exercise certain powers" (250).

Lucius Junius Brutus

A Roman consul who lived about 500 b.c. He condemned his own two sons to death when they were caught in a plot to restore the villainous Tarquinius to the monarchy (55). Knight (178) adds that Lucius Junius Brutus's name has become synonymous with duty above all.

Capital [To flirt is capital]

Capital here means both wonderful and punishable by death. To pun may be capital, too.

Plighted [Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted]

Solemnly pledged, i.e., engaged to be married.

Con fuoco [To embrace you thus, con fuoco]

Pronunciation: KAHN foo-OH-ko

With fervor (Italian).

Gioco [Would distinctly be no gioco]

Pronunciation: JOE-ko

Italian for game, child's play, joke, fun, or jest. In some editions the word is spelled "giuoco."

And for yam I should get toco

For today's audiences this is one of the most confusing expressions in the entire G&S canon. Let's start with toco. The OED (228) defines this as slang for chastisement or corporal punishment. There is good evidence that it was a common expression in Victorian England (115, 251). In some editions, incidentally, the word is spelled "toko." Partridge (234) has an entry: "Toco for yam. To be punished." It goes on to say that the expression, which dates back as far as 1860, is analogous to the Biblical stone for a loaf of bread. More explicitly, you can take it to mean "For doing something pleasant I should be punished." I think we can conclude that the term was generally understood in the vernacular of the day, but mystifies people today. Whoever is playing Yum-Yum can substitute "that" for "yam" and accompany "toko" with a finger drawn across her throat. If people still don't understand, it's their own fault for not owning a copy of this book.


Reciting to oneself (but letting the audience hear).

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.