Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Ruddigore

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Act I

Lord Nelson [she's fit to marry Lord Nelson]

Viscount Horatio Nelson (1758-1805): England's greatest naval hero, killed in the Battle of Trafalgar. Gilbert specifies that the action takes place early in the nineteenth century. This reference to Nelson pins the time down to the first few years of that century.

Aback [took flat aback]

The term means greatly astonished (56). The expression comes from the condition of a square-rigged ship when a change in relative wind direction causes it to act on the wrong side of the sail and so slow or stop the ship's forward motion. (The ship shown on the drawing of nautical terms in HMS Pinafore is square-rigged.)

Parbuckle [Parbuckle me]
Drawing of Parbuckle

To parbuckle an object, you raise or lower it with ropes that are looped around it. This is rather rough treatment. In modern lingo read, "Fry my hide."

Meet [Is it meet … ?]

Fitting and proper.

Chartered [I was chartered by another]

The phrase means that he was acting on behalf of another.

False colours [never sail under false colours]

Don't be hypocritical. The allusion is to the underhanded way in which pirates would fly some respectable flag (rather than the Jolly Roger) so they could approach another ship and take her by surprise.

Blue jacket [the happiest blue jacket in England]

Popular term for a naval seaman, named from the color of their jackets (54).

Admiral of the Fleet [I wouldn't change places with the Admiral of the Fleet, no matter who he's a-huggin' of]

This may be a sly dig at Nelson's shockingly open liaison with Lady Hamilton.

Salute [might I be permitted to salute the flag]

Euphemism for kiss, and the "flag" would be Rose Maybud's cherry lips.

Welter [from tempest's welter]

Related to being tossed about in waves.

Engender [A life-love can engender]

To cause to exist, to create.

Nuptial knot


Spoke [I have-- so to speak -- spoke her]

When Dick says he "spoke" Rose, he is using good nautical parlance to say he has communicated with her (92, 250).

Skulk [don't skulk under false colours]

To lurk out of sight in a furtive way.

Oil [and much corn and oil]

This refers to vegetable (probably olive) oil. Stedman (274) reminds us that "corn and oil" is a Biblical reference to agricultural wealth. There are literally dozens of references to oil in the Good Book. The First Book of Kings, for example, relates how Solomon gave Hiram corn and oil in exchange for cedars from Lebanon. (And keep in mind that Rose Maybud is addicted to expressing herself in the King James vernacular.)

Strong waters [he drinketh strong waters which do bemuse a man]

A euphemism for alcoholic beverages.



Wild beasts of the desert

I have heard doubts expressed that any wild beasts could live in a desert. But here's an authentic list: antelopes, elephants, gemsboks, giraffes, lions, suricates, and zebras (30).

Lothario [a regular out-and-out Lothario]
Sketch of Little prone to lead serious and thoughtful lives

A charming seducer and deceiver. The name is derived from a character in Nicholas Rowe's tragic play The Fair Penitent (1703).

Dead-eye [a better hand at turning-in a dead-eye]
Sketch of a Deadeye

A dead-eye is a round block of wood with, usually, three holes drilled through the flat face. They are used in pairs as a crude block-and-tackle to apply tension to the shrouds of a mast. For a picture see HMS Pinafore. "Turning-in" refers to the art of wrapping a rope around the dead-eye and binding it with lighter cord. Fortunately, the plot line is in no way dependent upon your understanding all this esoteric nautical lore. Read on.