Minding my Ps and Qs

                                                                    A – Z

I’m proud to be a part of a wonderful organization called the Writers of Kern. They are having a “Blog Challenge” and I’m participating. I’m writing my normal two blogs per week but challenging myself to be prompted by the alphabet. Hope you can read all twenty six from A-Z. For more good reading check out the Writers of Kern’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/95572300558/


Minding my Ps and Qs

In doing this “Alphabet Blog Challenge” I’ve come to the letters P and Q.  Since I will be spending these next four days in Lake Tahoe I’m scheduling ahead my normal Monday & Friday posts for my blog.
Friday would be the letter P and Monday is the letter Q.

I have to mind my Ps and Qs.

The first time I ever heard that silly expression was 4th grade. A mean spirited grouchy nun (I would be too if I had to dress like a penguin when it was 85 degrees and 90 percent humidity) was pointing her craggy finger at me.

I must have been doing something against her rules as she yelled,
“Mind your Ps and Qs, buster!”

Today I started researching where that silly term “Mind your Ps and Qs” came from. I had heard numerous origins, but I have now discovered so many answers that nobody really knows. So I will give you a few of them and you can decide which you like and call it your own.

Some say the term originated in the middle ages, around 1066(I heard that was a great year…I believe my teacher/nun was born that year). The Norman invasion caused the population to start speaking French. The English dialect of the 11th century had no “Q” in their language so the courts, churches had to beware of their usage.

Another Medieval explanation was old Latin. The letters “p” and “q” had many different variations with lines through them, dots over them, etc. Each variation of the letter had different meanings. That sounds plausible.

Another explanation I could buy is the original printing presses had all the letters reversed. This made the “p” and the “q” easily interchangeable if the printer wasn’t careful. Also printers were fined if they made spelling mistakes. That would make one very mindful of their “Ps” and “Qs.”

The English like to lay claim to the term. In the 17th century there was a double usage of the term in pubs and bars. At least this is the claim. Bartenders kept their records of sales on a tally slate. They were to make a mark when they sold a pint or a quart. They had to mind their “ps” and “qs” so the owner kept proper track of sales. It is also believed that the bartenders would remind their customers to watch their alcohol consumption by “minding their “Ps”(pints) and “Qs” (quarts).

But, of course, we Westerners had to modernize the meaning and make it about discipline (what else would you expect?)
As children we are expected to remember polite words, especially “Please” and “Excuse Me.” And as young children we normally pronounced those words like “Ps” and “Qs.”

When we were in school we were supposed to pay attention to the “Points” and “Questions” of conversation. Proper use of grammar, manners and speech.

I think the old nun just meant, “HEY…BEHAVE!”
I should have turned around. I might have caught her…
Nun 1


Enjoy our first full day of spring this Sunday.

About bakoheat

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4 Responses to Minding my Ps and Qs

  1. joanraymondwriting says:

    Great way to combine two letters and write a great post (as always!). Thanks for the history of the saying. I think all of them seem plausible, although Catholic nuns had their own twist on most things. Enjoy your trip to Tahoe!

  2. Jenny Estes says:

    Fun post. Can’t wait to see what you do with the “Q” on Monday. Enjoy Tahoe!

  3. fiddlrts says:

    I think the printing explanation makes the most logical sense. But I think I need to do some research on the alternative down at the local microbrewery…

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