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Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

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Gdansk, Poland
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Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

Please forgive me for asking a language question here, but it keeps haunting me:

Where does the phrase: 'to mind one's Ps and Qs' come from? I know what that means (or so I think) but am puzzled about its origin. Can anybody help?

I've been getting up the courage to ask this question for a long time, but I've no idea how to keep it travel-related! Hope I won't be found out by the moderators and terminated!

New Orleans...
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1. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

Nobody is really sure. One theory is that it was a warning to type setters not to mix up the two letters as they looked very similar - especially since the type setter had to read them backwards.

Another theory is that it was a warning to bar tenders to keep track of "pints" and "quarts" as he tallied up a bar bill.

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

Mixed answers, and lots of them, I fear.

I suspect it's more the pints and quarts, esp if drinkers were allowed to mark slates for drinks consumed.

Found a reference that says it was an abbreviation for Prime Quality, a dialectical phrase from the 17th century, ensuring an attention to detail.

But then it could be the typesetter explanation, esp as typesetters had to be able to read the letters backwards. That opens the door to why not bs and ds, though......

Watford
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3. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

I like the typsetting theory but Nigel Rees in his excellent book 'A Word in your Shell-like" also suggests that

1) As the letters p and q look so alike a child might will be admonished to be careful writing them or

2) That Frenchmen had to be warned not to get their pieds (feet) mixed up with their queues (wig-tails) when bowing and scraping.

London, United...
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4. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

I always figured the P's were your pleases, and the Q's stood for the thank you (thankq)....but then I am a mere simple girl!

Topeka, KS, USA
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5. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

Would love to see a little of Adam's #2!

Anacortes...
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6. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

I always heard it was for pints and quarts, as to avoid having too much to drink and doing something you would rather not hear about the next morning....

Atlanta, Georgia
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7. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

This might be interesting to some:

http://www.rootsweb.com/~genepool/sayings.htm

Gdansk, Poland
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8. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

Thanks :-) :-) :-)

And merci Salzang, the site is cool!

us
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9. Re: Mind your Ps and Qs - Britspeak revisited

Very interesting theories. I have heard it all my life, but never thought of where it came from. Thanks Madge!