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P's & Q's

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 10, 2003

In Reply to: P's & Q's posted by Tim on November 20, 2003

: : : The phrase P's & Q's came form early United Kingdom. Often fights would occur from the rowdy drinkers in the pubs. When a fight was about to break, the bartender would shout to the patrons to watch their Pints and Quarts. (P's & Q's) Taken as a warning to the patrons in the establishment , through time has been taken as just a warning in general, as in manners and behavior.

: : Several possible origins of "mind your Ps and Qs" have been proposed on this forum. Do you have some reliable documentation to back up this explanation?

: I believe it's in Xenia, Ohio that I saw this. But, there his a plaque telling the history of "mind your P's and Q's. It comes from the old typesetters (i believe) when the old news papers were published the typesetter had to put the in the letters on a table of sorts and then ink the letters up and roll paper over it or press it down to get everything to go onto the paper. Well, Every time new information was added or when the next day's paper would have to be published, new letters would be put down in the Die and they had to pay attention to make sure the p's and q's didn't get switched around since the lower case letters look alike except for them being opposites. They didn't want a news letter to read the Aqqle feel from the tree.

I have always heard that "Watch your p's and q's" (lower-case) referred to the letter shapes, particularly in regard to typesetting. The typesetter reads his text, while setting it, upside-down and backwards, and mistakes are easy to make. I know, having once been a typesetter. But the phrase is often spelt with upper-case P's and Q's. This would mean nothing to a typesetter. SS