Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Utopia, Ltd.

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Act I

Tuppence [“King Tuppence, or A Good Deal Less than Half a Sovereign”]

Slang for two-pence, often used to describe something, or someone, of little significance.


This has a double meaning here: a king and also a gold coin worth twenty shillings or one pound sterling (229). (Over the years there were other coins with the same name, but of differing values. What they had in common was the reigning monarch’s likeness on the face.)

Wilkinson [the celebrated English tenor, Mr. Wilkinson]

An assumed British-sounding name adopted by one of the natives, much as an aspiring young British or American opera singer named Jones might call himself Broccoli Spumoni. Shepherd (263) says that in searching through Gilbert’s plot books in the British Library he found that for a time Gilbert considered using a scene in which it would be revealed that Wilkinson was Paramount in disguise.

Antithetical [but consider the antithetical humour]

Diametrically opposed.

Abject [with abject submission]



A light, humorous play in which the plot revolves around ridiculous situations and cardboard characters.

De trop [You’re decidedly de trop]

Pronunciation: duh TRO

French for “superfluous.”


A teetotum is a many-sided (polygonal) top with a letter or number inscribed on each side. You spin it with the fingers and the number that is on the upper face after it comes to rest dictates your next move in whatever game you are playing. A teetotum was a socially acceptable substitute for dice (251).

Quotum [Gives its quotum once a minute]

Quota, or share. In the context, Gilbert is saying that fateful things happen with considerable frequency.

I’ll go bail

I’ll guarantee. See also The Sorcerer, Princess Ida, and The Mikado.

Laces tightly

Pulls her tummy in with a constraining corset (hoping to transfer the displaced bulk to her bosom).

Inning [Till your inning]

Your allotted time on this earth, akin to innings in cricket or baseball.

Rates [Rates are facts and so are taxes.]

Local taxes. (In Britain, the term “tax” is reserved for levies paid to the crown.)


Talking to himself (but so the audience can overhear). A useful practice in stage productions.

Tivoli Gardens

This derives from the Renaissance garden of the Villa d’Este in the town of Tivoli, a few miles northeast of Rome. It was the name given to a famous park and amusement center in Copenhagen and subsequently adopted for similar parks elsewhere.

Exhibits [When our medical adviser exhibits rum-punch it is as a draught, not as a fomentation]

Prescribes as a remedy.


Sweetened and spiced fruit drink well fortified with rum and brandy.


Pronunciation: Rhymes with daft

A dose of medicine.


A warm lotion or poultice.

Enormity [the enormity of the case]


Ground plans

In architectural or civil engineering designs:the layout of the floor (or floors) of a building, viewed from above.

Sectional elevations

Cutaway views showing structure in cross-section.

Capital punishments

Executions. Gilbert seems to be making a far-fetched pun by mixing capital (as in punishment) and capitol (as in a government building) (25).


Latin for “king.”

Calculus [On calculus may we be fed]

The calculus is a branch of mathematics that approaches problems by considering the behavior of small increments of the object under study. You can think of it simply as advanced algebra. Modern major-generals are known for their facile command of the subject.

Qualmish [Though a qualmish lot]

Subject to nausea (sickness of the stomach).

Knightsbridge nursemaids –– serving fairies –– stars of proud Belgravian airies

Collectively, the local female domestic help with whom the royal guardsmen might naturally flirt. Knightsbridge and Belgrave Square are residential areas close to Buckingham Palace. The Belgrave area is a particularly prestigious district, hence the “proud.” Belgravian airies refers to the below-street-level areas surrounding the basements of the fine residences typical of the Belgrave district. The basements were used as servants’ working quarters.

The OED (229) gives as one definition of area: “a sunken court, shut off from the pavement by railings, and approached by a flight of steps, which gives access to the basement of a dwelling house.” The farce The Area Belle, by Brough and Halliday, is set in a household kitchen opening into such a court (42). We can be sure that a good deal of unofficial socializing between the unattached nubile servants and their military admirers took place in such settings, but I wonder if the aristocratic First Life Guards were only toying with the affections of those lower class females.

Trump cards [they’re all trump cards]

Winners over all.

Horse Guards

A building in Whitehall, taking its name from the regiment that was once quartered there. In Gilbert’s time it was the headquarters of the London military district and the Household troops, including the Household Cavalry (see below) and the various Guards regiments. The term “Horse Guards,” then, applies to the building and to the headquarters (161).

Palsied [palsied with love]