The first-ever Tony winner for Best Musical is Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, a comedic send-up of The Taming of the Shrew that debuted in 1948 at the Shubert Theatre. And theatre lovers can find plenty of then-current references, as well as a lot of riffs on Shakespeare.
We've collected the most unusual—and unrecognizable—phrases from the musical and laid out their meanings below. The lyrics come from the most recent iteration, the 2019 Tony-nominated revival by Roundabout Theatre Company at Studio 54, starring Kelli O'Hara, Will Chase, Stephanie Syles, and Corbin Bleu. Among the biggest changes here was the overhaul of "I Am Ashamed Women Are So Simple," by Amanda Green, replacing "people" with "women."
Listening along by purchasing the album from Amazon or check out the recording on Spotify.
“Another Op'nin', Another Show”
Stage folks: Anyone who works in show business
Cross your fingers: Hope something will be good
Hold your heart: An expression of nervousness
“Why Can’t You Behave?”
Switch the dice: Adjust the numbers on a dice roll to get a more favorable outcome
Turn a new leaf: Change one’s behavior, generally for the better
Wunderbar: German for “wonderful”
Jungfrau: A mountain in Switzerland
Liebchen mein: German expression for “sweetheart”
Hand in glove: A very close relationship or agreement
“We Open in Venice”
Troupe of strolling players: A group of traveling actors
L.B. Mayer: Studio chief of MGM
Fol-de-rol: Trivial or nonsensical
Venice, Verona, Cremona, Parma, Mantua, Padua: Cities located throughout Italy
Quail: A small bird often eaten in upscale establishments
“Tom, Dick or Harry”
Racket: Illegal activity for monetary gain
Rip-roaring: Very loud and exciting
Silver lining: A consoling or hopeful prospect.
Thoroughbred: Type of horse that’s bred for racing
Patrician: Aristocratic or upper class
“I’ve Come to Wive it Wealthily in Padua”
Zounds: Expressing surprise or indignation, derived from a late 1500s euphemism for “by God's wounds”
Quarter-wit: A very foolish or stupid person
Powder your nose: Phrase to announce one is going to the toilet (usually used by women)
Gadzooks: An Old English shortening of “by God’s hooks,” possibly referring to the nails on Christ's cross
Cad: A disreputable man
Vesuvius: A volcano in Pompei that erupted in 79 A.D., preserving the entire city—inhabitants included—in ash.
“I Hate Men”
Down, boy: A command to remain still or lay down, usually used for a dog
I dinna ken: A Scottish phrase meaning “I don’t know”
Araby: The Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East.
“Were Thine That Special Face”
Thine: Old English phrase meaning “yours”
“Kiss Me, Kate”
Dish: Slang for an attractive person, gaining popularity in the 1920s.
Dastard: A cowardly person who is unlikeable.
“Too Darn Hot”
Sup: Eat dinner
Blow my top: Lose one’s temper due to stress or pressure
Kinsey Report: One of the first modern-day academic papers that explains human sexual behavior, including same-sex attraction.
Pitch the woo: Flirt
Mister GOB: A sailor
Squab: A bird (colloquially meaning a young person)
GI: Stands for government issue, but generally refers to any soldier in the army.
“Where is the Life That Late I Led?”
Shuberty: reference to the Shubert family, one of modern-day theatres' leading organizers
The Duomo: A cathedral in Italy
Pitti Palace: A palace in Florence, Italy (now an art museum)
Virago: A domineering woman
“Always True to You in My Fashion”
Something wet: a drink, usually alcoholic
Pass: romantic gestures
Back Bay: A rich neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts
Tycoon: A powerful manager, usually a boss, that is a leader in a specific industry
Curl my lip: Sneer at, reject
Let her rip: Go faster or give permission
Schlitz: An American-made beer made in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Lush: A heavy drinker of alcohol
To park: Have sex in a secluded area (originated from hiding in a car)
Mr. Gable: Clark Gable, one the most popular movie stars in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Sable coat: Outerwear made of an animal with valuable fur.
Sanka: Instant decaffeinated coffee
“Brush Up Your Shakespeare”
Aeschylus and Euripides, Homer, Sophocles, Sappho: Greek philosophers and poets
Shelley, Keats, Pope: Popular 18th-and 19th-century English poets (Pope is Alexander Pope)
Stratford Upon Avon: Shakespeare’s birthplace in England
Mussing: Make something untidy
Kowtow: To follow one’s commands or be subservient
Forsooth: Old English phrase meaning “indeed”
Pound of flesh: Something owed, used as an ultimatum to pay debts.
Odds bodkins: God’s body, used as an expression in Old English
Huffy: Easily offended
Lay on Macduff: Give it your best attempt (taken from Macbeth), usually in a fight or battle.
“I Am Ashamed That People Are So Simple”
Put your hand under a foot: Show devotion
In token of: A symbol of something