mind one's ps and qs

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Alternative formsEdit


Uncertain; OED (3rd edition 2007) says that the origin of the phrase is unknown and states that a common suggestion is that the phrase originates with the distinction of the minuscule letters p and q in either the school-room or the printing-office, but goes on to say that the chronology of the senses argues against this since no such connotation is evident in the earliest quotations.[1]

In the early 17th century, however, there is the expression pee and kew in the sense of “highest quality, best possible”[2]. Also recorded as in thy Pee and Kue in 1602.


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mind one's ps and qs

  1. (idiomatic) To be very careful to behave correctly.
    When we go to visit, do remember to mind your ps and qs, children – we don't want another incident like last time.


  1. ^ "P's and Q's, n.". OED Online. June 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/260920 (accessed June 09, 2019).
  2. ^ Samuel Rowlands (1612) Knave of Harts: “Bring in a quart of Maligo, right true: And looke, you Rogue, that it be Pee and Kew.”

Further readingEdit