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

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 I

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]


Ingrate [Out of my sight, ingrate!]

Ungrateful wretch.


Pronunciation: TET-ah-TET

French for “head-to-head,” generally implying a confidential, perhaps romantic, conversation. See also The Mikado.

Rival Admirers’ Clauses Consolidation Act

Fitzbattleaxe’s fictitious law invented to bamboozle the two Wisemen. Barker (25) comments that Gilbert is twitting Parliament’s actual readiness to enact legislation governing trivial activities.

Household Cavalry

The two regiments mentioned under “Life Guards” in Characters above. (Somehow the term conjures up visions of a house full of horse-mounted soldiers and bitter complaints from the maid.)

Tontine principle

Tonti was a seventeenth century Italian who originated a fund-raising scheme that came to be known as a “tontine.” Sponsored, usually by a government, tontines borrowed capital from individuals who were paid annuities until they died. Survivors benefited from increasing income as their numbers dwindled. When the last survivor died, the entire residual capital remained with the sponsoring organization. Tontines, which reached their peak in the eighteenth century, were used in France, Britain, and the United States (105).

Machinations [Their machinations we defy]

Despicable plots.

Predilections [And all her predilections]



A tentative proposition assumed as a basis for reasoning.

Some crumpled roseleaf light

Knight (177) quotes Thackeray as saying, “A very little domestic roseleaf crumpled puts me off my work.” Fitzbattleaxe is saying perfect bliss is easily marred.


Presented in a brief and witty style, perhaps with some sarcasm.