The Grand Duke

Act I

Pfennig Halbpfennig – Literally, penny half-penny.  Tuppenny ha’penny is British slang for anything inferior and trivial

Comedian / Comédienne – terms used to refer to actors (not necessarily comic ones)

Soubrette – an actress who plays the young and saucy roles

quite a dashing sposo – Italian for male spouse

But it’s bilious on the whole – upsetting to the liver

D will attempt to “square the press” – Bribe a reviewer

F claims all hoydens – roles of spirited, tomboyish girls

like turtle her first love confessing – turtle-dove

what folly fell – what dreadful folly

castle gibbet – gallows

may not fight with falchions bright – sword, especially a broad curved one

orthography foregoes her spells – a pun about bending the rules of spelling

ipso facto – Latin for “by the very act” (that is automatically)

King’s evidence – evidence provided by an accused person about his alleged partners in crime (like State’s evidence)

compromising bonhomie – French word for geniality

as o’er our penny roll we sing – a cheap type of bread

rich mock turtle, thick and clear – namely a soup (also cheap)

two-shilling gloves – even these are expensive by the Duke and Baroness’s standards

Waterbury watches – cheap watches made in Waterbury, Connecticut

give this man his gruel – make him take his punishment

this plebian man of shoddy – “plebian” means “of the masses” and “shoddy” is a kind of inferior woolen cloth

when two doughty heroes thunder – valiant

verbum sat. – more legal language from the Notary; this is an abbreviation for a Latin phrase meaning a word to the wise is sufficient (verbum sat sapienti)

I’m not an ascetic – one who denies himself the creature comforts

the jolly jinks – merry-making (as in “high jinks”)

as merry as a grig – A phrase that may mean “as merry as a cricket” (and just how merry is that?) or “grig” may be a corruption of “Greek,” making this a reference to Troilus and Cressida where a character is called “a merry Greek indeed.”

Act II

Eloia! and Opoponax! – Fake Greek-sounding exclamations.  Opoponax from the Greek for “all-healing”, was medicinal plant, and in Gilbert’s day, trade name of a line of perfumes

I’ll pay ’em (if they’ll back me) all in oboloi and drachmae – Greek coins

with a dithyrambic lecture – in the style of a boisterous Greek hymn to Dionysus

in the period Socratic, every dining room was Attic – that is, from Attica, a region in eastern Greece (where Athens is)

periphrastic methods spurning – rejecting long-winded methods

steady “cram” – the way students often prepare for an exam

Mrs. Grundy – a character mentioned in an 18th century play, now used as a symbol of prudish British propriety

dress of Coan silk – silk from the Greek isle of Cos

hoity-toity vixenish viragoes – snooty, ill-tempered, overbearing women

ingenue – the role of sweet, naive young thing

hard as the millstone nether – the nether millstone is the lower of the two millstones used to grind flour (it’s quite hard)

lily-white laughing leman – paramour

as sulky as a super – (actor lingo) short for “supernumerary” an actor with a non-speaking part who, if not in something as jolly as G&S, might get surly

“tol the riddle lol” – nonsense words

technical bogie – a frightening apparition, although in this case only legally, not literally

magnum of merry champagne – a double-sized bottle

Pommery ’74 – the 1874 vintage of the fine French champagne

Come, bumpers, aye ever so many – glasses filled to the brim

a pretty job-lot of second-hand nobles – a group of diverse articles bought as a unit, often of inferior quality

rook the pigeon and the gull – a bird pun about taking advantage of suckers

Allons, encore, garçons, fillettes, vos louis d’or, etc. – Come now, again, boys and girls, your 20-frank gold coins, etc.

the law forbids the banns – announcement of a proposed marriage