HIGGINS: By George, Eliza, the streets will be strewn with the bodies of men shooting themselves for your sake before I’ve done with you.

ELIZA: Here! I’m goin’ away! He’s off his chump, he is. I don’t want no balmies teachin’ me.

Act One, Scene Three


A BALMIE tends to be defined as, quite straightforwardly, someone who is boring, someone who is mild and pleasant and soporific. 




HIGGINS: Send the blackguard up.
PICKERING: He may not be a blackguard, Higgins.
HIGGINS: Nonsense. Of course he’s a blackguard.

Act One, Scene Five

A BLACKGUARD–the word Higgins uses to describe Alfred Doolittle–has the following definitions (when used as a noun):

A rude or unscrupulous person.

A person who uses foul or abusive language.

And the third, which is obsolete now but could have been used then-
The kitchen servants of the household.

It can also be used as a verb and would mean, of course, to talk about or address in abusive terms.


THE SELSEY MAN: He ain’t a tec. He’s a gentleman look at his shoes.
HIGGINS: (Turning on him genially) And how are your people down at Selsey?
THE SELSEY MAN: (Suspiciously) Who told you my people come from Selsey?

Act One, Scene One

Selsey Aerial View

SELSEY is a civil parish–which is the lowest tier of government in English, below districts and counties. It is a part of the Shire county of Sussex, and just barely cut off from it geographically by the sea, which surrounds it.

Today, most of the schools in SELSEY are described as “improving,” and so it seems that in 1912 or the 1950s, for example, the schools may not have been top-tier.

SELSEY attracts eccentrics and drifters, in addition to older fishermen and retired colonels.

It’s a flat peninsula that could easily be overwhelmed by the sea on all sides, as it has been many times.

It does not have easy access to any public transportation, in terms of leaving SELSEY.

It seems that Selsey has been continually inhabited since the stone age.

Selsey Bed & Breakfast today