Helpful Annotations on Pygmalion

Annotations/Explanatory Notes on Pygmalion

Act One  

See this link for help with understanding British Currency prior to 1971

worrited and chivied:
Upset and bothered by harassment or petty attacks

hearing in it the voice of God, rebuking him for his Pharisaic want of charity to the poor girl:
Remembering his Christian values, criticizing his self-righteous motivations to provide charity

lighted with a gas lamp with a penny in the slot meter:
During the time in which Pygmalion is written, the gas supply for the house was unlocked by a coin slot somewhere in the house. Owners would deposit a pence to access gas for stoves or lamps, or a shilling in more luxurious neighborhoods. These coins would later be collected by the gas company.

Act Two 

black frock coat:
Popular men’s coat typically knee-length, that skirts all around the base

white linen collar:
A detached linen collar used for more formal attire  

scullery:
A room in the house typically used for washing dishes and clothes.

copper:
A police officer

blackguard:
A person who behaves in a dishonourable way

one of the undeserving poor
A sometimes derogatory term referring to the absolute bottom of the lower class. In today’s society, it would be used to classify illegal immigrants, welfare recipients, anyone who can be accused of not contributing to society

Act Three

at-home day:
It was a social custom in the British Victorian society that women would have a day at home to receive visitors on a specific day of the week. This day would be printed on her ‘calling card’ to specify when she would be available to entertain.

the habitual anxiety of straitened means:
The constant anxiety of having little money

bravado:
Boldness and courage

genteel poverty:
Within the class systems existing in Britain during the time of Pygmalion, the lower class was not simply limited to the poor. Inside the lower class, existed its own class system. The previously mentioned undeserving poor reside at the bottom of this system. The genteel poverty however, are closest to the top, at the border of the lower-middle class.

prudery:
The virtue or qualities of being prudish, or excessively modest.

eliminate the sanguinary element from her conversation:
To remove the harshness or lower class elements from the way she speaks. Sanguinary literally means bloodiness or in reference to bloodshed. The poetic use of the word in this excerpt tries to amplify the extend of how harsh Eliza’s speech is.

Act Four  

 Higgins, in evening dress…carrying a smoking jacket:
An garment  of clothing meant to be worn while smoking tobacco out of a pipe or cigar. Typically worn by the upper class, this jacket was worn to absorb the smell of the smoke and catch any falling ash, that might ruin or damage your outfit beneath.

coroneted:
Adorned or decorated, typically with small crowns

billet-doux:
A love letter.

Act Five  

 I touched pretty nigh everybody for money:
I asked pretty much everybody for money

the pauper’s uniform:
The look and appearance of someone who begs for money to make a living

the Skilly of the workhouse and the Char Bydis of the middle class:
A reference to the Ancient Greek story, The Odyssey by Homer, where the hero attempts to sail through a narrow passage with Scylla, a sea monster on one side, and Charybdis, a live-threatening whirlpool on the other side. The parallel of this reference is by Higgins to express that he too is trapped between two options that aren’t the most pleasant. Today we’d say something similar to ‘you’re trapped between a rock and a hard place’.

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