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On the Q.T.

Posted by ESC on June 09, 2001

In Reply to: On the Q.T. posted by James Briggs on June 09, 2001

: : : Does anyone know exactly what the phrase "on the Q.T." means.

: : : I have had always heard it to be synonymous with saying something off the record or meaning that something you have just said is to be kept secret.

: : : Example: "I'm saying this to you strictly on the Q.T., but I think the Senator will be running for re-election next term."

: : : Any ideas?

: : : Thanks.

: : Yes, the meaning is just what you think--something just said is supposed to be secretive or "off the record".

: Any idea where 'QT' comes from? Is is shorthand for 'Quiet'?

I'm amazed at the long histories some of these phrases have.

Q.T. - "A British broadside ballad contained the line 'Whatever I tell you is on the Q.T.' This is the first record of Q.T. for 'on the quiet, in confidence' recorded in English, but no one has established whether the broad-side's anonymous author was the first person to use the initials Q.T. to stand for quiet.

'On the Q.T.' gained more popularity when it appeared in an 1891 minstrel show number called 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay.' London 'went stark mad over the refrain,' which was written by Henry J. Sayers and sung by Lottie Collins. The first stanza follows:
A sweet Tuxedo girl you see,
Queen of swell society,
Fond of fun as fun can be
When it's on the strict Q.T.
I'm not too young, I'm not too old,
Not too timid, not too bold,
Just the kind of sport I'm told -

If you or your children grew up with 'Howdy Doody' (a U.S. children's show) you'll notice the similarity between 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' and Howdy's theme song." From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).