Pinafore > Glossary
Jacky: Twists of tobacco soaked in rum (for chewing).
Soft tommy: A kind of bread.
Conies: Wild rabbits.
Polonies: Smoked sausages named after Bologna, the Italian town where they were first made.
Spithead: The stretch of water lying off Portsmouth in the east Solent.
Dick Deadeye: A deadeye is a wooden block with three holes, used for tightening or extending the shrouds of a sailing ship.
Bill Bobstay (boatswain): A bobstay is the rope used to draw down the bowsprit of a ship and keep it steady, counteracting the upeward force of the foremast satys.
Bob Becket (carpenter's mate): A becket is the ring or loop of rope used for holding spars.
Foremast hands: Those sailors who serve "before the mast" (those below the rank of officer).
Quarter-deck: The deck to the aft of the mainmast where the officers and midshipmen had their quarters. Only commissioned officers could linger on the quarter-deck.
Fore-yard arm: The ends of the large wooden spar which crossed the mast and from which sails were set.
Main-truck: A circular wooden cap fitted on the highest point of the mainmast.
Slacks. A traditional nautical term for trousers.
Hand: To hand is to take in and furl a sail.
Reef: To reef is to reduce the area of a sail exposed to the wind by partially furling it.
Selvagee: A hank of rope yarn made into a strap or sling.
Ancestral timber: Family tree.
K.C.B.: Knight Commander of the Bath, the second class of the Order of the Bath.
Nine-pounders: The smallest long cannons carried on Royal Navy Ships. Ships like H.M.S. Pinafore would also have carried 18 and 32-pounders on the main gun deck providing the main armament.
Pocket borough: A parliamentary seat controlled by a single individual (usually wealthy landowner); these seats were abolished by the Great Reform Act of 1832.
Midshipman: A non-commissioned rank in the Royal Navy just below officer level. Traditionally young men detined to become officers would serve a three-year period as midshipmen before becoming sub-lieutenants.
Topman: A sailor stationed at the top of a mast.
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 trousers he usually wore).
British tar: A British sailor.
Cimmerian darkness: According to Homer's Odyssey, the Cimmerians lived in a land where the sun never shines.
Ganglion: A tumour or swelling on a tendon, an enlargement or knot of a nerve. Here it means a centre of force, activity or interest, a point from which many lines diverge.
Bumboat: A boat carrying provisions to vessels at a distance from the shore.
Highlows: Laced ankle boots of the kind typically worn by Victorian women.
"Jackdaws strut in peacock feathers": A reference to Æsop's fable about the jackdaw which decked itself out in peacock's feathers, only to become the laughing stock of the other birds.
"Black sheep dwell in every fold": A proverb meaning that there are bad individuals in every group.
"Storks turn out to be but logs": From another of Æsop's fables in which a group of frogs asked Jupiter to give them a king, and, being dissatisfied with the log given to them, found it replaced by a stork.
"Bulls are but inflated frogs": From yet another of Æsop's fables. A mother frog wanted to impress her children by making herself as big as an ox. She puffed herself up and burst.
Turbot, Brill: Both are flat-fish. Turbot is a delicacy, brill is not.
Farthing: One quarter of a pre-decimal currency penny.
"Once a cat was killed by care": The saying "Care killed the cat" means that you can worry yourself to death.
"Only brave deserve the fair": From Dryden's ode for St. Cecilia's Day, Alexander's Feast (1697).
"Thirsty lambs run foxy dangers": From one of Æsop's fables which tells of a lamb which was devoured by a wolf while off-guard, drinking from a stream.
"Dogs are found in many mangers": From another of Æsop's fables about a dog which would not allow an ox to get near the hay, even though the dog did not want it. A "dog in the manger" is therefore a mean-spirited individual who will not allow another to use something, even though he does not want it.
Blue and white: Blue and white oriental ceramics which were very fashionable in the 1870s and 1880s.
Gillows: Suppliers of high quality furniture to the richest families in the country..
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.
Hymen: The Greek god of marriage.
Port division: The crews of men-o'-war were divided into port and starboard watches, one of which was on duty whilst the other rested.
Fo'c'sle: (Forecastle) the part of the upper deck forward of the foremast.
Telephone: The first telephone message was transmitted in 1876, and the first London telephone company opened in June 1878, a month after Pinafore.
Roundelay: A short simple song with refrain.
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