Mind your p’s and q’s

By Trevor Bryden

What does the phrase mind your p’s and q’s mean and where does it come from? Trevor Bryden’s latest cartoon illustrates the origin of this phrase.

17 thoughts on “Mind your p’s and q’s

      1. Trevor Bryden

        The expression “mind you ‘p’s and ‘q’s” comes from a typesetter’s problem of having to view letters in reverse. The letter ‘b’ and ‘d’ are also the same in that, viewed in reverse, they can be confused.
        Preparing text for printing involved picking the letter with a pair of ‘tweezers’ and placing it in the word order they are forming for printing which is all in reverse. In the ‘California Typesetter’s Box’ the ‘b’ and ‘d’ are in two entirely different places but the ‘p’ and the ‘q’ are side by side. If you don’t pay attention you can get the ‘p’ and ‘q’ confused and inadvertently put in the wrong letter. You have to pay attention to what you are doing. Hence the expression.
        Another suggestion is the expression could come from running a tab in a pub and not paying attention to the number of pints and quarts you have had. You could have a tab that you don’t have the money to pay so you have to pay attention. …….. Trevor

  1. Donald V Desmond

    I’ve been told that the phrase reffered to pubs running a tab for their regulars and that the barkeep would keep a running record where P stood for pint and q for quart. So that minding your p’s and q’s meant that you kept track of how much you owed on your tab/ line of credit.

  2. KingKritiKal

    I never knew I just came up with my owns meaning mind your PS n Q’s meaning in every interaction or situation throughout the day thru experience I have developed a set of Paranoia Questions to test the integrity of all situations relationships or interactions that you deal with on a day to day basis so I know if I would like to trust or even indulge myself into the information given by interactions or situations faced …..

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  4. Piers Crocker

    We used to be told (wrongly and imaginatively – and I believed it at the time!) that it meant “Mind your manners”, because one should say “Please” (your “p”), and “Thank you” – pronounced “thank q”.

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