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Theatre / My Fair Lady

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Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?
This verbal class distinction by now should be antique.
If you spoke as she did, sir, instead of the way you do,
Why, you might be selling flowers, too!
Henry Higgins, "Why Can't The English?"

My Fair Lady started life as a stage musical by Lerner and Loewe, based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, and starring Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison. It was a smash hit when it opened in 1956, and set new records for the longest run in Broadway musical history (a title now held by The Phantom of the Opera).

The musical follows the young Eliza Doolittle, an outspoken and hopeful flower girl in Edwardian England who takes elocution lessons from Professor Henry Higgins, who (as a result of a bet with the kindly Colonel Pickering) promises to turn her into "a lady." He then trains her, day and night, using some downright bizarre machinery and techniques (the marbles make sense, but some of the others...)

When Higgins attempts to try Eliza out on Society by introducing her into his mother's box at Ascot, the transfigured flower girl also encounters young Freddy Eynsford-Hill, who, unaware of Eliza's true social standing, is instantly smitten — despite (indeed, because of) Eliza's humiliating lapse into vulgarity at the running of the horserace itself.

The lessons finally culminate in the Embassy Ball, at which ambassadors, lords, and the Queen and Prince of Transylvania will be present. The ball, despite the presence of the venal language expert Zoltan Karpathy, goes incredibly well; Eliza dances with the prince and many at the ball believe Karpathy's identification of Eliza as a Hungarian princess(!).

Then the relationship between Eliza and Higgins, which had been steadily improving, takes a huge blow when Higgins takes all the credit for Eliza's success. Eliza is understandably saddened and enraged and she leaves the house after an outburst that leaves Higgins angry and confused; the rest of the play involves them figuring out their relationship in their own way, though if it works out in the end is left to the viewers' interpretations.

In 1964, Warner Bros. released a movie adaptation, which starred Audrey Hepburn as Eliza.

This work provides examples of:

  • Abilene Paradox: Cited by Higgins in "An Ordinary Man" as one of the problems that come of associating with women:
    Make a plan and you will find
    She has something else in mind
    And so rather than do either
    You do something else that neither
    Likes at all!
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The final scene in which Eliza returns to Higgins is not in the original play (although it is in the film version, which the musical also borrows several elements from).
    • The 2018 Broadway revival alters the ending further by having Eliza come back to Higgins but promptly leave again after giving him his slippers.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In the first act of Pygmalion, Henry Higgins brings Eliza to a tea party at his mother's house. Lerner and Loewe dropped that scene and replaced it with the scene at the Ascot races (presumably to give the chorus something to do). They left unexplained exactly how Eliza knows where Mrs. Higgins lives in order to visit her in the second act, leaving the audience to assume that she acquired the information offstage either during the time skip that follows the Ascot scene or while she's with Freddy earlier in the second act.
  • Adaptation Title Change: My Fair Lady is an update of the play Pygmalion.
  • Alliterative Name: Henry Higgins. Eliza, a Cockney girl, struggles with dropping H's and calls him 'Enry 'Iggins.
  • And Then I Said: The Embassy Ball scene ends on a climactic note as Zoltan Kaparthy manages to get Eliza alone. The next scene begins with Higgins, Pickering and Eliza arriving home, where Pickering and Higgins tell the household staff (who have been waiting up to hear how it went) what happened next.
  • Aren't You Forgetting Someone?: When Pickering is congratulating Higgins on winning the bet, he proclaims, "All alone you hurdled every obstacle in sight!" Higgins protests modestly that he didn't do it alone... Pickering helped too. Neither of them thinks to give any credit to Eliza, who's right there through the whole conversation.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Higgins and Pickering are too stuffed to finish the last cake tart. Not to worry, says Higgins; he knows somebody who loves these. He marches right past a famished Eliza to feed it to a caged bird.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Higgins said this out loud, and Eliza certainly thought he meant it in the trope sense, too. He didn't.
  • The Bet: Pickering bets Higgins that he can't make good on his boast that he can pass Eliza off as a lady at the Embassy Ball. It's what persuades Higgins to take Eliza on as a student, and he says after he wins it (although it may be just false modesty) that there were times he would have given up on the attempt if it weren't for the bet.
  • Blessed with Suck: Alfred's windfall is a double-edged sword, as he's now forced to enter into legal marriage with "Mrs." Doolittle. As if 'avin' to act like a bloomin' gentleman weren't enough already.
  • Bowdlerise: The name of the oily language expert was changed from Nepomuk to Zoltan Karpathy, because St. John Nepomuk (as Shaw was well aware) was a Catholic saint and patron of the confessional.
  • Break the Haughty: Mrs. Higgins' favorite sport with her son, and she delights in Eliza putting him in his place in front of her.
  • Brick Joke: After Doolittle comes to check on Eliza's situation, his philosophizing inspires Higgins to write to a philanthropic acquaintance jokingly commending him as "the most original moralist in England". Doolittle is not seen again until near the end of the story, when Eliza runs into him again and discovers that the philanthropist has died and left Doolittle a small fortune because he took the commendation seriously.
  • British Stuffiness: "The Ascot Gavotte." The English sure know how to party.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He may be lord of the manor, but Higgins' weirdness is very apparent in public.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them: Eliza and Henry, to each other.
  • Catchphrase: Pickering's "I'm dashed." Eventually lampshaded by Higgins:
    Higgins: Oh, Pickering, for God's sake stop being dashed and do something!
  • Celibate Eccentric Genius: Higgins is a genius in the field of phonetics, undeniably eccentric, and has a whole song about how he prefers a solitary intellectual life to the messiness that accompanies romantic entanglements.
  • Costume Porn: Eliza's gorgeous dresses after her transformation.
  • Crash-Into Hello: The play opens with Freddy getting jostled in a crowd and knocking Eliza over, causing her to spill the flowers she's selling; he hastily apologizes before being called away by his mother. He doesn't recognize her when they meet again after her makeover; it's not clear whether she remembers him.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • Freddy of all people does it during his first song when he is just about to quote Eliza's Precision F-Strike in song when Mrs Pearce opens the door.
    • While singing "Without You", Eliza nearly tells Higgins he can go to Hell — but replaces it with "Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire" (echoing Higgins' speech exercise from earlier).
  • Dances and Balls: The Embassy Ball.
  • Dark Reprise: "Just You Wait" gets a reprise shortly after "You Did It". This time, It's Personal.
  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: Henry Higgins embodies this trope, having said 'So here I am, a confirmed old bachelor and likely to remain so' and so much more. The only hang-up is whether he can actually be considered deconfirmed by the end—though most people agree he had at least befriended and come to care about Eliza by the end—and since he is such an extreme case that he'd never even had a female friend before, by his own admission, this could still be enough of an about-face to qualify him.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Higgins takes Eliza to Ascot after having taught her to sound like a lady — without teaching her sentence structure, or how to have a basic conversation, advising her to stick to the weather and everyone's health.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: “Just You Wait”, in which Eliza wishes death on Professor Higgins in return for his rudeness.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Freddy, in what would be considered stalking by today's terms.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off!: Eliza's father threatens to give her the belt a couple of times for disobedience or talking back, and recommends it to Higgins as the best way to improve her behavior.
  • Dr. Jerk: Henry Higgins himself, though he's technically a professor of linguistics and not a doctor per se.
  • Dresses the Same: In the Ascot scene, Mrs. Higgins complains that her son didn't even dress for the occasion.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Higgins mercilessly drills Eliza day and night. Meanwhile, his servant staff fawns over his ordeal.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Eliza is extremely angry over how Higgins gets all the praise for fooling everyone at the Embassy ball.
    "Yoooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuu did it! ♫"
  • The Edwardian Era: 1912, to be precise.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "I've Grown Accustomed to her Face," in which Professor Higgins finally realizes that he does care about Eliza and will miss her.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Zoltan Kaparthy recognises the signs that Eliza has had training to bring her English up to snuff, but leaps to the wrong conclusion about why it was necessary:
    And although she may have studied with an expert dialectitian and grammarian,
    I can tell that she was born — Hungarian!
    ...Not only Hungarian, but of royal blood.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Higgins might experiment on the desperate and vulnerable for the sake of his own amusement, but Zoltan — a hatchet man who likes to mix with socialites and extort money out of them by covering up for their poor English — is low even for him.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: All the women, including Eliza, curtsy to the Queen of Transylvania at the Embassy Ball.
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: After the ball, Eliza and Higgins get into an argument that ends with Higgins storming out of the room — or trying to, but blindly crashing into his phonograph and setting the recording going, ruining his moment.
  • Faint in Shock: At the horse race, one lady faints after hearing Eliza shout "Come on Dover! Move yer bloomin' arse!"
  • Fanfare: "The Transylvanian March", played when the Queen of Transylvania makes her entrance at the Embassy Ball.
  • Fauxreigner: At the ball, Kaparthy demonstrates his ability to detect fraud by pointing out a foreign diplomat whose origins are actually English working-class, and who pretends he speaks no English because if any English person heard him speak they'd immediately realize the truth.
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Eliza's outburst at the races, to her (and Henry's) embarrassment.
  • Fictional Holiday: In Eliza's dream ("Just You Wait"), the King is so enraptured by her voice that he declares Eliza Doolittle Day.
  • First Girl Wins: If you take it that Eliza ends up marrying Freddy, as Shaw intended, then this is a straight gender-flipped example; Eliza and Freddy have a Meet Cute at the start of the play, a couple of minutes before Eliza first meets Higgins. Otherwise, it's a subversion.
  • Flat Joy: Those prim-and-proper racetrack patrons sure are excited to be there. Can't you tell?
  • Gem-Encrusted: The embassy dress is loaded with jewels.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Professor Higgins is impeccably polite in the rudest way possible.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: Pickering and Higgins. Higgins insists on drilling Eliza relentlessly while Pickering sees value in an approach that includes giving her rest breaks and taking time to explain what the drills are supposed to accomplish.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The opera-goers at the beginning, the ladies at Ascot, and the ladies at the ball.
  • Got Me Doing It: The voice exercises start getting to poor Pickering after awhile. "'Ave you troid the ploin cayke?"
  • Grandpa God: A famous promotional image drawn by Al Hirschfeld for the original Broadway run shows Eliza Doolittle being worked like a puppet by Henry Higgins being worked like a puppet by a Grandpa God on a cloud. God is a caricature of George Bernard Shaw.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: Eliza's first appearance in her ballgown.
  • Grief Song: "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" arguably, since it's a combination of grief and anger. Doubles as Love Epiphany.
  • Hakuna Matata: "With a Little Bit of Luck", in which Alfie Doolittle sings about how you can have a fun, carefree existence with a little bit of luck (and a willingness to dodge responsibility).
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Higgins' defense to Eliza's charge that he still treats her like rubbish. In point of fact, he treats everyone like that — and he's proud of it, too.
    Higgins: The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you've ever heard me treat anyone else better.
  • The Hedonist: Alfie Doolittle cares for nothing beyond the next night on the town. He'd rather have five pounds for a booze-up than ten pounds that he might be tempted to save up and spend sensibly.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Henry is very misogynistic, though he insists he's not. In the scene where Eliza comes to ask for lessons, he's got a whole song dedicated to whining about how much he dislikes women ("An Ordinary Man"). When she walks out on him, he has another ("A Hymn to Him"). The end of the play may have helped him get over it, but again, it's up to viewer interpretation.
  • Humble Goal: When the Cockney street vendors joke about Eliza coming into money and offer visions of elaborate foreign holidays, Eliza replies that she would be happy with a room with a warm fire, some chocolate, and somebody to keep her company.
  • "I Am" Song:
    • "With a Little Bit of Luck" is Alfie Doolittle's expression of his philosophy: responsible, clean living is a laudable achievement, but with a little bit of luck you can dodge all your responsibilities and have a bit of fun instead.
    • In "An Ordinary Man", Higgins describes how he has his life organized to his satisfaction and doesn't intend to let any women in to disrupt it.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: There's more than a hint of No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction in Eliza's relationship with Henry. Pickering is a gentle teacher, ready to call off a session when he can see Eliza is tired. In contrast, Eliza wants the approval of the never-satisfied Higgins. Meanwhile, Higgins doesn't truly care for Eliza, let alone fall in love with her, until she makes it clear that she can do just fine without him.
  • I Meant to Do That: In the midst of being thoroughly castigated by Eliza, Higgins springs up from his chair and claims credit for her self-confidence. What a chode.
  • "I Want" Song: Eliza's "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?": she wants a cozy warm room, a comfy chair, and chocolate.
  • I "Uh" You, Too: Higgins finally confesses to Eliza that he's going to miss her... then quickly follows it up by saying Pickering misses her, too.
  • Imposed Handicap Training: Higgins makes Eliza read a poem while holding marbles in her mouth, on the theory that if she can speak clearly with a mouthful of marbles she can easily manage the same without them.
  • Innocent Innuendo:
    • Eliza's landlady reports to her father about her change in circumstances: "She sent the boy for her belongings, but she said she won't need any clothes" *wink*
    • Pickering accidentally manages to convince Scotland Yard Eliza is not just sleeping with Higgins but also with him.
  • Insufferable Genius: Even Higgins' own mother can't stand him.
  • Ironic Echo: At the beginning of the Ascot scene, Higgins tells his mother that he has advised Eliza to restrict her conversation to two subjects: the weather, and everybody's health. Near the end of the musical, when Eliza and Higgins have fallen out and Higgins is failing to get through even a single sentence of conversation without making things worse, his mother gives him the same advice.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Henry. Maybe there's some gold in there somewhere, but you'd be hard pressed to find it. Not quite Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk territory, but YMMV.
  • Kavorka Man: Alfie. There's a reason he departs for his wedding as if it were his own funeral.
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    You, dear friend, who talk so well
    You can go to...Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire!
  • Lazy Bum: Alfie Doolittle is one, knows it, and boasts of it in "With a Little Bit of Luck".
  • Lessons in Sophistication: Eliza Doolittle receives such lessons from Professor Higgins after he made a bet with Colonel Pickering.
  • Licensed Pinball Tables: Played with; there are actually two Pinball games based on My Fair Lady, though both of them were unofficial ones "inspired" by the musical.
    • Gottlieb released Fair Lady in 1956, capitalizing on the success of the Broadway play, with illustrations of the masked women from the embassy ball.
    • Then in 1966, Gottlieb released Mayfair, riding the coattails of the film adaptation.
  • Lighter and Softer: Much more so than the original Shaw play.
  • Local Reference: Professor Higgins sings that, "There even are places where English completely disappears / In America, they haven't used it for years!" — a remark that isn't in the original play and was added by the authors of this American adaptation.
  • Location Song: "On The Street Where You Live", is a love song from the perspective of love interest Freddy. The song is about how wonderful the street seems due to Eliza living on it.
  • Love Epiphany: "Damn damn damn damn! I've grown accustomed to her face!"
  • Lower-Class Lout: Alfred Doolittle, a lazy trash collector who happily sponges off anyone he can, to the point where characters will immediately address him with "Not a brass farthing." When he does get the money he immediately spends it on beer. It's also outright stated that he abandoned Eliza early on and is a lousy dad the sporadic times he is in her life. Near the end of the play, he comes into an unexpected inheritance that gives him a middle-class income, which he resents because it carries with it an obligation to behave respectably.
  • Lyrical Cold Open:
    • Several of Higgins's songs begin with him transitioning from spoken dialogue into the opening of the song in mid-sentence — "After all, Pickering, I'm just an ordinary man..." and "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" — although in the case of role originator Rex Harrison, and any Higgins who follows his example, the distinction between speaking and singing is not very clear.
    • Eliza's big solo at the end, "Without You", also begins cold with her transitioning from speaking to singing in mid-sentence.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Ascot Gavotte," wherein upper-class gents and ladies sing about "a ripping, absolutely gripping moment" with all the enthusiasm of a funeral host.
  • Maybe Ever After: Eliza and Henry are reconciled at the end, but are they a romantic couple now, or what? The answer is only hinted.
  • May–December Romance: What may have happened between the 21-year-old Eliza and the much older Higgins, who is at least twice her age.
  • Meaningful Name: A name like Doolittle totally makes sense for someone like Eliza's father. Eliza herself, on the other hand...
  • Medley Overture:
    • The overture begins with a brisk introduction based on "You Did It," and continues with "On The Street Where You Live" and "I Could Have Danced All Night." The latter cuts off just before the cadence, leading into the Opening Ballet with a generic fanfare.
    • The entr'acte begins with an introduction with fanfares based on the Embassy Waltz over trills and a big cymbal roll, and continues with a medley of "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face," "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "With A Little Bit Of Luck." The coda includes an abbreviated version of "On The Street Where You Live."
  • Men Are Uncultured: Henry Higgins believes in the inversion of this trope, that it's the hysterical women who ruin discussions of classical literature by wanting to talk about love and that if a man wants to see a play or ballet and a woman accompanies him, he'll inevitably spend it searching for her glove.
  • Misogyny Song:
    • In "An Ordinary Man", Higgins declares that he'll never fall in love with a woman because they're manipulative and obnoxious wastes of time who bring out the worst in him.
    • In "A Hymn to Him", Higgins laments that his relationship with Eliza isn't as simple as his friendship with Pickering.
  • Missing Mom: Eliza's mother is presumably dead, as her father is in a relationship with another woman whom he eventually marries.
  • The Musical
  • Musicalis Interruptus:
    • When Freddy gets some alone time with Eliza, he starts singing what sounds like it's going to be a full musical number about how her presence makes everything better, but she cuts him off after a couple of lines to do her own musical number venting about the way Higgins has treated her.
    • Near the end, Eliza sings "Without You" to Higgins, informing him that she can stand on her own two feet and won't miss him. In concert and on the soundtrack album, the song ends on a triumphant high note, but in the show itself Higgins breaks in just before the last note to claim credit for Eliza's new-found self-reliance, preventing her from finishing the song.
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Alfred P. Doolittle.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Eliza remarks on the difference between Pickering, who treated her like a lady even when she was just a flower girl, and Higgins, who continues to treat her like a flower girl even after she's become a lady.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The lyrics of "A Hymn to Him" do not contain the title phrase.
  • No Sympathy:
    • The servants express more compassion for Higgins than his hapless student (Doesn't rest / Doesn't eat / Doesn't touch a crumb!) Cut to Higgins munching on cakes while Eliza is wasting away.
    • While trying to practice with marbles in her mouth, Eliza accidentally swallows one, but Higgins simply replies "Doesn't matter, I've got more", and puts more into her mouth.
  • Nursery Rhyme: The title, of course, comes from "London Bridge is falling down", a snatch of whose melody is heard at the beginning of "Get Me To The Church On Time".
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: One of the hazards of getting involved with women listed by Higgins in "An Ordinary Man".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Henry Higgins’ speech about “the majesty and grandeur of the English language” that he gives to Eliza just before “The Rain In Spain.” After months of treating Eliza as though she were an experiment, and torturing her relentlessly, it’s pleasantly surprising to see him, in that one moment, act towards her with tenderness and encouragement (“and conquer it you will”). And even she seems to realize it, as well, as immediately after this speech, she has her first big breakthrough in RP, leading directly into “The Rain In Spain.”
  • Opening Ballet: The show opens with a dialogue-free sequence depicting Covent Garden at night, with upper-class opera-goers interacting with street vendors and street entertainers putting on displays of dancing and acrobatics.
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Eliza takes one to the races.
  • Parental Abandonment: Eliza's father pushes this into borderline abuse levels as he not only leaves all of his children to fend for themselves, he takes their hard-earned money for himself to waste on alcohol. (And he brags about this, no less!)
  • Pass Fail: The plot is driven by Higgins' bet that he can train a rough, low-class flower girl into passing as a member of the aristocracy.
  • Penny Among Diamonds: Eliza gets to live among the upper classes without becoming rich herself; while the bet is on, Higgins and Pickering provide her lodgings, food and clothing, but when it's over she's faced with the fact that she hasn't the means to continue living the life she's been taught up to and no longer fits comfortably in the life she used to live.
  • Pet the Dog: After a full day of nonstop, grueling exercises, an exhausted Higgins finally offers Eliza a few soft words of encouragement. At this, her voice instantly transforms into an impeccable upper class accent.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Eliza's gown for the Embassy ball.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Eliza and Henry. Maybe.
  • Princess for a Day: Well, for several months. Eliza's training is to help her pass as a "lady."
  • Proper Lady: What Eliza is being taught how to be.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: It seems Higgins' contempt for his pupil lies in the fact that he abandoned academia; Zoltan Kaparthy uses his linguistics abilities "more to blackmail and swindle than teach." At the ball, Kaparthy boasts that he is trusted to ferret out impostors, while also taking bribes from a diplomat to not expose his birth origin — "I keep his secret, but I make him pay. I make them all pay".
  • Pygmalion Plot: Higgins "creates" the upper-class version of Eliza Doolittle, then finds himself attracted to her — just at the point where she has gained enough self-respect to tell him to go hang.
  • Pygmalion Snap Back: Eliza has one at the Ascot Gavotte. She later returns to the flower garden and is not recognized, despite using Cockney. She spends most of Act II speaking in some sort of British/Cockney hybrid, so it's not clear if she wants the Pygmalion results to stick.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Colonel Pickering, a gentleman and a scholar who is given to expressions such as "Well, I'm dashed!".
  • Rags to Royalty: Eliza goes from rags to the upper middle class. And she was able to be taken for nobility.
  • Rapid-Fire Descriptors: Higgins expresses his opinion of women in "A Hymn to Him":
    They're nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Both Eliza and Henry deliver these to each other. Several times. Henry even gets a Reason Your Speech Sucks Speech. Eliza gets a Reason You Suck Song ("Just You Wait").
  • Rich Language, Poor Language: Poor, lower-class, Cockney-accented Eliza learns to speak "proper" English and pass herself off as an upper-class lady.
  • Romantic False Lead: Either Freddy or Higgins. It's left very ambiguous.
  • The Scapegoat: Following Eliza's spat with Higgins, Freddy gets chewed out for the high crime of being the first man who crosses her path.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: The writing credits for the musical mention the 1938 film produced by Gabriel Pascal as well as the original stage version of Pygmalion. The musical uses several scenes that first appeared in the film, including the embassy ball (which happened entirely offstage in the play) and the ending where Eliza returns to Higgins.
  • Set Switch Song: "On the Street Where You Live" covers the big set change from Ascot back to Henry Higgins' house.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: When first introduced Eliza's very dirty and wearing torn-up, worn clothing. The exact words of the trope are used by her father on first seeing her as a 'lady'.
  • Shot at Dawn: In "Just You Wait", following days of unrelenting drilling by Higgins, Eliza fantasizes that when she's a proper lady she'll gain the ear of the King and have Higgins executed by a firing squad.
  • The Slacker: Alfie Doolittle is dedicated to living up to his surname, with a little bit of luck.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Eliza and Henry's relationship...and if the play is to be believed, no doubt this would have carried on.
  • Smug Snake: Higgins throughout most of the musical.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: What happens when you combine Eliza's blue language with a posh accent.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Higgins sarcastically writing a letter of recommendation for Alfred Doolittle, calling him "one of the most original moralists in England." An American philanthropist dies and bequeaths a fortune to Alfie.
  • Stag Party: When Doolittle is last seen, he's having one last blow-out on the night before he gets married.
    Doolittle: There are drinks and girls all over London, and I've got to track 'em all down in just a few hours!
  • Stalker with a Crush: Oh, Freddy. By today's standards, anyway.
  • Stalking Is Love: Freddy sends Eliza love letters every day and spends all his spare time hanging around in the street outside her house — at one point, she finds him out there at three in the morning. It's played for laughs, and Freddy is characterized as so ineffectual that he could never actually do anything, for good or ill. Eliza isn't especially impressed by his behavior, but she also isn't put off by it, and seriously considers him as a possible marriage candidate.
  • Stealth Insult: Eliza gets Higgins with a few. Higgins isn't so good at being stealthy with insults, but doesn't understand why he has to be.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Fed up with her keeper, Eliza returns to the old neighborhood after her blossoming into a lady, but no one recognizes her.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion:
    • "Why Can't the English" has a very subtle one, depending on the listener to recall the stereotype of the seductive Frenchman:
      In France, every Frenchman knows his language from A to Zed
      (The French don't care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.)
    • In the verse prelude to "On the Street Where You Live", Freddy recalls all the charming things that Eliza did at Ascot. Just as he's about to complete a rhyme with "enchanting farce" by repeating the thing Eliza shouted after "Come on Dover!", he's interrupted by the housekeeper asking his reason for visiting.
    • In "Without You"
      You, dear friend, who talk so well,
      You can go to — Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire!
  • Take Our Word for It: Eliza doesn't speak a single word during the Embassy Ball scene. Her conquests of the ambassador and of Kaparthy occur offstage and are related to the audience afterward by Pickering's and Higgins's accounts to Mrs Higgins and the household staff.
  • Talk About the Weather:
    • While in public, Higgins advises Eliza to stick to mundane topics: the weather, and everyone's health. It backfires.
    • Mrs. Higgins, disgusted with every word that comes out of her son's mouth, echoes this advice in the end.
  • Tenor Boy: Freddy.
  • Think Nothing of It: The opening scene of the second act, in which Pickering and a backing chorus of household servants praise Higgins for the success of his experiment while he faux-modestly claims that it was really nothing.
  • Those Two Guys: Harry and Jamie, Alfred Doolittle's friends and fellow dustmen.
  • Titled After the Song: From the refrain of the nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down", the melody of which appears in the underscore at the beginning of each act.
  • Training from Hell: Linguistics training from hell, although not as over-the-top as some examples.
  • Tsundere:
    • Eliza is Type A, though this largely comes through from being around Higgins; when left with her Cockney friends, she's more Type B.
    • Higgins himself is a type A, notably when he meets Eliza at his mother's. He'll get close to being kind to Eliza, realise what he just said and promptly insult her.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Invoked when some adaptations have Pickering call the police to report Eliza's departure. When he's asked to explain what she does in the house, Pickering is left floundering as he realises that Eliza doesn't actually have a "job" in that sense, so he ultimately declares "That's not important; what is important is that she get back here so that she can keep doing it."
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "Without You" is this, as well as being a bit of a Anti-Love Song. Also "Just You Wait".
  • Wacky Americans Have Wacky Names: Mention is made of well-meaning but apparently sarcasm-blind American philanthropist who rejoices in the name of Ezra D. Wallingford.
  • Westminster Chimes: A modified version begins every iteration of "Poor Professor Higgins".
  • Would Rather Suffer: In "An Ordinary Man", Higgins says that he'd "be equally as willing / for a dentist to be drilling" and would "prefer a new edition / of the Spanish Inquisition" than to ever let a woman in his life.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Higgins emits one when, after searching for Eliza, he finds her calmly having tea with his mother.