H.M.S. Pinafore

Act I

jacky – twists of tobacco soaked in rum (for chewing)

I’ve treacle and toffee – molasses, or a similar syrup

soft tommy – a kind of bread

chicken and conies – wild rabbits

pretty polonies – smoked sausages named, like the sandwich meat, after Bologna, the Italian town where they were first made

reddest beauty in all Spithead – body of water off Portsmouth

Dick Deadeye, Bill Bobstay (boatswain) – the last names of these sailors refer to parts of a ships’ ropes or rigging

to do her menial‘s duty – to be her humble servant

foremast hands – those sailors who serve “before the mast” (those below the rank of officer) [see Quarter-deck]

quarter-deck – the deck to the aft of the mainmast where only commissioned officers may promenade

ship a selvagee – a hank of rope yarn made into a strap or sling

he would commit solecisms that society would never pardon – gaffes, or breaches of etiquette

Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B. – Knight Commander of the (Order of the) Bath (high honor)

bang the loud nine-pounders go – the smallest of the battery of the cannons carried on Royal Navy ships (which also include 18 and 32-pounders)

pocket borough – refers to a parliamentary seat controlled by a single individual (usually wealthy landowner); these seats were abolished by the Great Reform Act of 1832

grog – rum diluted with water (from the nickname of the Admiral who began the custom of issuing the drink to sailors, “Old Grog,” so called for the grogram cloak he usually wore)

British tar – slang for sailor

Cimmerian darkness – according to Homer’s Odyssey, the Cimmerians lived in a land where the sun never shines

I am but a living ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms – a bundle of nerves

Act II

either at sixes or at sevens – to be “at sixes and sevens” is to be confused

bumboat woman – boat used to peddle provisions to ships in port

storks turn out to be but logs; bulls are but inflated frogs – references to Aesop’s fables

turbot is ambitious brill – kinds of fish, turbot being preferred

gild the farthing – lowest denomination of British coin at the time

the prospect is Elysian – in Greek mythology, Elysian fields were the home of the blessed

cat-o’-nine-tails – (or simply “the cat”) – a whip with nine knotted lashes used for punishment

fo’c’sle – short for “forecastle,” the forward part of the ship, usually containing the crew’s quarters

no telephone – the first telephone transmission was in 1876, and the first London exchange opened in June of 1878, a month after H.M.S. Pinafore did

Go, ribald, get you hence – a vulgar person using coarse language

to your cabin with celerity – haste

the consequence of ill-advised asperity – harshness of manner; ill temper

I practiced baby-farming – took in foster children