Kiss Me Kate
Glossary and Comments
¶ Additional Shakespeare words are
given on a separate list.
¶ Words given here are (generally) in the order of the play, rather than in
alphabetical order. The titles in brackets are the song in which the term
Introduction (in the script)
- In the published version of the script, Baltimore is described as the land of Mencken and nod.
This is is a pun on “winkin’, blinkin’ and
- Henry Louis (H. L.) Mencken
(1880-1956) was known as the “Sage of Baltimore”, an author, critic, newspaper man
(especially for the Baltimore Sun), and iconoclast; he was a libertarian long
before that word came into common usage. He is a subject of frequent quotations. Today
he is best remembered for his multi-volume study on how English is spoken in
the United States, The American Language, and for his coverage of the
Scopes trial in
1925, which he described as the “Monkey Trial”, and in his reports
he exhibited an East-coast elitist contempt for small-town and rural
life. (Read bio in Wikipedia.)
The “land of nod” usually refers to sleep; it is a pun on the
passage from the Bible: And Cain [, after he had slain his brother
Abel,] went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of
4:16 (Here, nod means wandering.)
Act I, Scene 1
- A chiropodist is another name for a podiatrist,
a specialist in the care of the feet. Lois is confusing this word with chiropractor,
a therapist who practices chiropractic, which attempts to cure diseases
by manipulating the vertebrae.
- Philly, Boston, and Baltimore are cities where Broadway shows
often have opened before they open on Broadway in New York. This is known
as the “out-of-town” tryout. Another common tryout city was New
Haven. Today, with air travel, shows can open in virtually any city.
For instance, Evita had its American premiere in Los Angeles. [“Another
Op’nin’, Another Show”]
Act I, Scene 2
Act I, Scene 3
- A chaise longue is, literally, a “long chair”, or a
recliner. It should be pronounced “shez long”, but I have heard “chayz lounge.”
is another word for a rounded ottoman, a thick cushion used as a seat or
foot rest. (Follow the link for other meanings of pouf.)
- Macy’s is one of the
largest department store chains in the world. They are famous for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. Their main store is
located at Herald Square, between 7th Avenue and Broadway, and 34th and 35th
- F. W. Woolworth
Company was one of the earliest five-and-ten-cent stores, also called
five-and-dime stores, or simply dime stores. In their heyday many
complained that their low fixed prices undercut many local merchants and put
them out of business. They were the first store to put merchandise out
where customers could select what they wanted, rather than presenting a clerk
with a list of items. They also operated lunch counters, and became local
gathering places. In the later 20th century, dime stores found competition
from drug stores, grocery stores, and later discount stores. All Woolworth
stores in the United States closed in 1997, and the company has changed its
name to Foot Locker.
- The Hope Diamond--According to the legend, a curse befell the large,
blue diamond when it was plucked (i.e. stolen) from an idol in India - a curse that foretold bad
luck and death not only for the owner of the diamond but for all who touched it. Owned by
Kings Louis XIV and XV of France, and (supposedly) George IV of Great Britain, the Hope diamond is currently on display as part of the
National Gem and Mineral Collection in the
National Museum of Natural History in the Smithsonian for all to see.
The plot of Wilkie Collins’s novel The
Moonstone may be based (in part) on this legend.
- Cyrano no doubt refers to the play Cyrano
de Bergerac, by Edmond
Rostand, written in 1897 in French. The story concerns the
historical character Cyrano, who is eloquent, but has a huge nose.
His comrade in the army Christian is ineloquent but dashing, and asks Cyrano for
words to woo the beautiful Roxane. Both men are in love with her, and
Christian wins her heart. Years after Christian is killed in battle,
Roxane discovers that she had really fallen in love with the writer of the
beautiful words, who, of course, was Cyrano.
- Some of the German words in the song “Wunderbar” are given
||“Virgin” (in this case, the alp in Switzerland,
peak elevation 13642 ft; a ski resort)
||literally, “my little love”: a term of endearment
- Snowdrops, pansies, and rosemary make up Lilli’s wedding
bouquet. A snowdrop is
a small white flower of the amaryllis family, somewhat related to the
lily. A pansy is a
cultivated violet; the name comes from the French penseé, meaning thought.
Rosemary is a culinary herb
which grows in Mediterranean countries; it is often used to symbolize
Ophelia: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember; and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.”
IV, v, 145
Act I, Scene 4
- Venice, Verona,
Mantua, and Padua
are cities in northern Italy, and are also neighborhoods in Little
Italy in New York City. Immigrants from the same town tended to
settle in the same neighborhood, often on the same street. (Little Italy
is located in lower Manhattan, between Canal, and Kenmare Streets, just west of
the Bowery. Its heart is Mulberry Street. At the peak of Italian
immigration, it was very crowded, but now, not many Italians live there, but
many restaurants and shops remain. North of Little Italy is a neighborhood
known as NOLITA = North Of Little ITAly.) [“We Open in Venice”]
- L. B. Mayer = Louis
Bert Mayer was a pioneer film maker. In 1924 he became head of MGM
pictures, a post he held for 24 years.
- A codpiece
is the pouch at the crotch of men’s tight-fitting breeches worn in the 15th and
16th centuries. (For etymology, see the entry at dictionary.com.)
- Lassie was a
fictional collie and star of many books, films, and TV series. The first
appearance of Lassie was a short story, “Lassie Come-Home”, in 1938,
expanded to a book in 1940, and made a movie in 1943. Several more movies
followed. The TV series “Lassie” ran 1954-1974. Lassie is
one of only three dogs to have a star on the Hollywood
Walk of Fame, the others being Rin
Tin Tin and Strongheart.
Interestingly, most of the dogs to play Lassie were male. [“I
Act I, Scene 6
- Peer Gynt is a
drama by the Norwegian Henrik
Ibsen. It was probably never intended to be performed, but only
read. Ibsen asked the composer Edvard
Grieg to compose music for it. Today, the two suites of music that
Grieg extracted from his incidental music is better known than Ibsen’s
words. The play concerns the antihero Peer Gynt, who lives a life in
defiance of the world, and ends up lonely.
- A tarantella
is a fast dance in 6/8 time,
traditional to southern Italy. It is named for the city of
Taranto, in Apulia, located in southern Italy, in the “arch”, just
below the “heel” of the Italian boot. The “arch” of the
boot forms the Gulf of Taranto. It was once believed
that one could dissipate the poison of a tarantula bite by dancing a tarantella.
Another notion was that dancing a tarantella was the cure for
tarantism, which was the uncontrollable urge to dance energetically, which
could be caused by the bite of a tarantula. (Tarantula and
tarantism are also both named for
Act II, Scene 1
- The Kinsey report, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, was
published in 1948, the same year that Kiss Me Kate opened. Then Sexual
Behavior in the Human Female was published in 1953. Although many of
Kinsey’s conclusions have been discredited, his work was revealing and remains influential. [“Too
- A squab is a newly hatched or unfledged pigeon. [“Too
- A haberdasher
is a merchant dealing in men’s clothing. In Britain, it can mean a dealer
in sewing notions and small wares.
- Some of the places mentioned in the song “Where is the life that late I
led?” are given below:
- Milano = Milan, the chief
city of Lombardy (Italian
Lombardia), in northern Italy
- duomo = cathedral, or a
church that was formerly a cathedral; the formal Italian term for cathedral
(the church that holds a bishop’s throne, or cathedra) is cattedrale.
The gothic duomo
of Milan is the largest cathedral in Europe and the world. (St Peter’
Basilica in Rome is larger, but is technically not a cathedral.)
- ponte vecchio = The
“old bridge”, in Florence,
rebuilt in 1345, it has merchants’ shops (mainly jewelers) on it
- Taormina, a town on
Sicily, dating from around bc 400.
- Firenze = Florence,
the chief city of Tuscany (Italian Toscana), in central Italy, north
of Rome. The Italian renaissance had its first fruits in
Florence. It was the city of Dante, the Medicis, Michelangelo, Savonarola,
and Machiavelli. Because of Florence’s great literary tradition, its dialect
of Italian is considered the standard.
- Venezia = Venice, in
northeast Italy, is a city of islands on a salt water lagoon. Venice
was founded in the VIII century by Roman refugees fleeing the Lombards.
It remained nominally subject to the Eastern Roman Empire in
Constantinople. During the late middle ages and the renaissance, it
became the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean.
- palazzo = palace
- The Pitti
Palace, in Florence, once a residence of the Medici family, is now
an art gallery.
a pejorative name for a verbally abusive and angry woman. It is from Latin virago,
which means “resembling (-ago) a man (vir)” and was a positive word
used to describe heroic females, usually in a mythological context. Anthropologically,
virago means a woman with male disposition both physically and psychically.
[“Where is the life that late I
- Shuberty refers to the Shubert
brothers, Lee, Sam, and Jacob, from Syracuse, NY, who were Broadway
theatrical producers and theater owners. They had headquarters in the
Shubert Theatre (named for Sam). Their operation currently owns or operates 16
Broadway theaters. [“Where is the life that late I
Act II, Scene 4
- “Man cannot live by bread alone”; or as cited in Matthew
4:4 and Luke
4:4: “Man shall not live by bread alone”; refers to Deuteronomy
8.3. The full quotation reads: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but
by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” In Deuteronomy, the
phrase occurs in one of Moses’s last sermons, before he died and the people of
Israel crossed the Jordan into the promised land. The reference is for God’s provision of manna, so that the people knew that they depended on
provision. In the New Testament, during his 40-day fast, Jesus quotes this
scripture in answer to the devil’s temptation to turn stones into bread.
No. 5 was the first perfume introduced by Gabrielle
“Coco” Chanel. (Numbers 1 through 4 were never
marketed. She was given samples, which were numbered 1 to 5, and chose
number 5, and thought that was a good enough name.) A fifth refers to a
fifth of a gallon, or 4/5 of a quart, formerly, the standard wine or liquor
bottle size. (Now the standard is 750 ml, about the same amount.)
- The Harvard Club of New York City is
located at 27 West 44th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Alumni and
faculty of Harvard University are eligible
for membership, on
selection by the Admissions Committee.
- The following lines, uttered by Fred Graham on his
exit, are from the scene in The Taming of the Shrew where Petruchio and
Kate are returning to her father’s house; Kate is essentially “tamed”,
but Petruchio is playing with her mind. On seeing the approach of
Vincentio, an old man and Lucentio’s father, he describes him as a young woman,
and Kate greets her as such. Then Petruchio states he is indeed an old
Why how now, Kate? I hope thou art not mad.
This is a man–old–wrinkled–faded and withered.
--The Taming of the Shrew, Act
IV, Scene v, lines 45-46, and Kiss Me Kate, II, iv
The lines are directed at Vincentio in Shrew, but obviously refer to
Howell in Kate.
Bay is that part of Boston on land fill completed between 1857 and
1900. It is one of Boston’s most fashionable neighborhoods, and includes Trinity
Church, the John
Hancock Tower, and the Boston
Public Library. [“Always True to You (in My Fashion)”]
beer, which used the motto, “The beer that made Milwaukee famous”, was
the #2 brewery into the 1970s. It fell on hard times in the 1980s, and the brand
was acquired by the Stroh brewing company, and is presently owned by
Pabst. Today Schlitz is only produced in small quantities. [“Always True to You (in My Fashion)”]
Aweigh is the unofficial song of the U.S. Navy. Note: to “weigh
anchor” is to bring it aboard a vessel in preparation for departure.
The word “weigh” in this sense comes from the archaic word meaning to heave, hoist or raise.
The phrase “anchors aweigh” is an acknowledgment to the commander that this procedure has been completed.
This event is duly noted in the ship’s log. [“Always True to You (in My Fashion)”]
- A hornpipe
is a quick dance in 2/4 time, traditionally performed by sailors. It has a
characteristic three strong beats at the end of a phrase. A hornpipe is
also a kind of flute made from bone, on which the hornpipe (dance) was
originally played. [“Always True to You (in My Fashion)”]
Act II, Scene 5
- St Thomas’s Church, on
Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street, New York City, was founded in 1823, on a different
site. It is particularly known for its stained-glass windows, and the St
Thomas Choir of men and boys, perhaps the outstanding Anglican choir in the
United States. (See images.)
airport (LGA), located in the Flushing area of the borough of Queens, used to be
the main airport for New York City, but in the jet age was superseded by JFK,
which was formerly known as Idlewild (IDL). JFK airport is located in the
Jamaica area of Queens. Today LaGuardia still is a major airport, handling
passenger traffic on short- and midrange flights. The airport was named
for Fiorello La Guardia,
mayor of New York from 1933 to 1945; his life and loves are the subject of the
musical show Fiorello!
In the working version of the script, instead of from LaGuardia airport Harrison
Howell planned to leave on his honeymoon from Grand Central
one of two grand railroad stations in Manhattan. Grand Central was
renovated 1996-98. The other great station in Manhattan, Pennsylvania
Station, built in a grand style: the waiting room was
built in a style inspired by the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla, and in
size approximated the nave of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. But by the 1950s,
passenger rail travel had declined, and the Pennsylvania Railroad was in
financial difficulty. So PRR optioned the air rights above the station, and
the above-ground structures were demolished beginning in 1963, to be
replaced with the new (4th) Madison Square Garden, and two office towers.
There was a great outcry at the loss of what many considered to be one of
New York’s architectural treasures that the preservation movement was
- The Waldorf refers to the
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Originally, it was two hotels. The Waldorf opened in
1893 at Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street in Manhattan. A rival member of the
Astor family built the Astoria Hotel across 34th Street in 1897. The two
hotels were united in 1897, and renamed the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. It was
the largest hotel in the world at one time, and became a major social center
in New York. This hotel was demolished in 1928, to build the Empire State
Building on the site, and a new hotel, the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel [with a
double hyphen] was opened in 1931 at 301 Park Avenue. Conrad Hilton acquired
management of the hotel in 1949. In 2008, the double hyphen was dropped, and
the hotel became the Waldorf Astoria New York. The hotel contains the United
States Embassy to the United Nations. Hilton built the Beverly Hilton hotel
in 1959. It is now being renovated, and next to it is being built the new
Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills hotel, which opened in 2017.
- A trousseau
is the collection of clothing, linens, and accessories that a bride assembles
for her marriage.
- Discretion is the better part of valor; or, as Shakespeare has
it, “The better part
of valour is discretion”; a quotation from 1
Henry IV, Act V, Sc. iv, line 119 (spoken by Falstaff). Shakespeare is here
contrasting the three characters of Hotspur, Prince Hal, and Falstaff. Hotspur
is a man of great valor, but without discretion, in leading a rebellion which he
cannot win, and in rebelling against his anointed king, rebelling against the
natural order. Falstaff is a character of no valor and little discretion. In
contract to these two, Prince Hal is a man of both valor and discretion. This is
especially shown when he becomes king at the end of 2
Henry IV: act V, scene ii, 50-67.
- In 1926 R.C.A. formed the N.B.C.
radio network as a wholly-owned subsidiary. \N. B. C. became the dominant
network, with more stations than either of its rivals, C.B.S.
In fact, N.B.C. had two networks, called NBC-Red and NBC-Blue.
(There was also an NBC-Orange for the far west.) In 1941 the FCC demanded
that the network be broken up, and NBC sold the Blue network, which eventually
became ABC. When color TV came along, the NBC TV network became a vehicle for the selling of
RCA’s color televisions, with such programs as “Bonanza”. N.B.C.
became a part of General Electric, when GE bought RCA. In 1988, GE sold
the NBC radio network to Westwood One. (The famous NBC
Chimes, which can be the three notes G-E-C, did not, contrary to popular
belief, derive from the initials of General Electric Company.)
- A mongoose
is a weasel-like carnivorous animal with a long tail that feeds on snakes and
rodents. Mongooses are illegal in the United States and Canada.
- M. G. M., or
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, was the largest of the major Hollywood studios, at
least during the golden era of the studio system (c. 1930-1948); their studios
were actually located in Culver City. It is still a major cinema and
television company, but in 2005 it was acquired by Sony Pictures Entertainment and Comcast Corporation.
- Wheaties, a whole wheat
ready-to-eat flake breakfast cereal originally (1924) known as “Washburn’s Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes”,
is made by General Mills. In 1933, they began using the slogan “Breakfast of Champions”.
is a pain in the lower back down to the upper thigh along the sciatic nerve.
- Harrison Howell’s place in Georgia is 30,000 acres, or about 47
square miles. This is just a little smaller than the city of Long
Beach, CA. This is
ranch size, perhaps more to be expected in Montana than Georgia!
- Aiken, South Carolina,
is located not far from Augusta, Georgia.
is a hunting cry used to urge the hounds after a fox.
- Dick Tracy is
the comic strip by Chester Gould, the
famous police detective who wore the two-way wrist radio (introduced
February 13, 1946, as invented by Brilliant Smith, son of industrialist Diet
Smith). Gould began
the strip, and drew it from 1931 to 1977. Tracy was a driven and highly
intelligent police detective who fought organized crime and some eccentric and
bizarre criminals (like Big
Frost). Some of Gould’s ideas were later incorporated in professional
police work. The two-way wrist radio was later improved to the two-way
wrist TV (April, 1964), anticipating today’s picture cell phones.
- High tea refers to
tea as a light meal taken at the high, or formal, table.
Act II, Scene 6
- Casablanca is a seaport and the largest city in Morocco. I would
imagine that there is also a passing reference to the 1942 Warner Brothers
feature film Casablanca.
- Sanka was the first
brand of decaffeinated coffee, invented by Dr
Ludwig Roselius in Germany in 1903. In France, it was given the name café
sanka as a contraction of the French phrase sans caffeine. Sanka was
first marketed in the United States in 1923. It was sold in orange-colored
containers, so an orange-handled coffee pot has long been identified with
decaffeinated coffee. Around 1960, I remember restaurant and motel menus
having under beverages a choice of “coffee, tea, sanka, or postum”.
(Postum is a caffeine-free
beverage invented by C. W. Post in 1895. It was discontinued in 2007.) [“Bianca”]
Parsons was a Hollywood gossip columnist for the Hearst papers (Los
Angeles Examiner, among others). Her great rival, after 1937, was Hedda
Hopper, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times. Their influence was so
great they could make or
break a movie career.
- Svengali is the
name of a fictional abusive hypnotist, created in George
du Maurier’s 1894
Du Maurier is the grandfather of Daphne
du Maurier, who wrote Rebecca
Act II, Scene 7
Some of the items mentioned in the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”:
- Aeschylus (bc
525-456; Greek: Αἰσχύλος) was the oldest of the three great tragedians
of ancient Athens.
His best known play was Seven
Against Thebes (Ἑπτὰ ἐπὶ Θήβας, Hepta epi Thēbas; Latin:
Septem contra Thebas). (Prometheus
Bound (Προμηθεὺς Δεσμώτης, Promētheus Desmōtēs), attributed to him, is now thought to be by some anonymous
4th century bc poet.)
- Euripides (c. bc
480-406; Greek Εὐριπίδης) was the youngest
of the three great tragedians
of ancient Athens. His
best known works include Alcestis
(Ἠλέκτρα), and The
- Homer (Greek Ὅμηρος) was the legendary poet credited with
authorship of the major Greek epics
(Ἰλιάς) and Odyssey
- Sophocles (bc early 5th century to 406; Greek:
Σοφοκλῆς) was the second,
chronologically, of the three great Greek tragedians.
His best known plays are Antigone
(Ἀντιγόνη: bc 442), Oedipus
the King (Οἰδίπους Τύραννος: Oedipus Rex or Oedipus Tyrannos;
at Colonus (Οἰδίπους ἐπὶ Κολωνῷ; bc
- Sappho (Attic
Greek Σαπφώ, Sapphō; Aeolic Greek Ψάπφω, Psapphō) was an Ancient
from the city
(Ερεσός) on the island
of Lesbos (Λέσβος).
Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) and John
Keats (1795-1821) were two of the principal English Romantic
- Alexander Pope
(1688-1744) was an English poet of the 18th century.
- A bard, in Celtic
countries, is a professional poet employed to sing the praises of a
monarch. In England “The Bard” refers to Shakespeare, and in Scotland,
to Robert Burns.
- Stratford-on-Avon (or, properly, Stratford-upon-Avon)
is the birth and burial place of Shakespeare.
- A bodkin is a dagger or stiletto.
Heights is the area of Manhattan just north of Harlem,
located between 155th Street and Fairview Avenue. In this area are The
Medical Center, and the east end of the George
literally means in truth.
- Trow is a Shakespearean word meaning believe, trust, or suppose.
(It is related to the words troth, trust, truth, and true.)
- Kowtow means to kneel and touch the forehead to the ground as an
act of submission, respect, or worship. (From Mandarin Chinese,
literally, bump head)
- A pavane (also spelled pavan) is a stately
processional dance in duple time
from the 17th and 18th centuries. The name is from Italian dialect,
meaning from Pavia, or from
- Last updated: 05/29/2020
- See also the list of Shakespeare words.
- For comments, suggestions, additions, or corrections to this list, please
email me: tf_mcq <at> yahoo.com
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Me Kate main page.
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