Minding ones P's and Q's

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Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Shelley » Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:45 pm

Ok, I just read the following in the current Neal Stephenson book I'm reading, King of the Vagabonds (second in the eight-part Baroque Cycle):
"You're the sort who keeps a tally, aren't you? Like a tavern-goer who prides himself on the Ps and Qs chalked up on the wall next his name -- save in your case it's wenches".
I've always believed that "minding ones P's and Q's" was all about saying "please" (pees) and "thank you" (kyews). For good or ill, Stephenson plays around a lot with word and phrase origins in his writing, and since I'm a fan, and I want to think he cares enough to be accurate, I wonder if anyone can elaborate on this reference to Ps and Qs as -- what? A scorecard of a person's accumulated consumption of Pints and Quaffs? Porters and teQweelas? The spending of Pence and Quids? The story takes place in the 1680's and the speaker is English, although the scene takes place in Paris -- or maybe Amsterdam . . . Hm, could be Vienna.

Hey there, mighty wizards!
Signed,
The Absent One
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Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by tony h » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:08 pm

Where hast thou been O Absent One?
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Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Mar 09, 2018 1:27 am

How nice it is to hear from you Shelly, you have been missed.
.
As for Ps and Qs, I was always led to believe that when my ancestors, the Welsh especially, were known to drink beer in quarts (two pints), so their debts to the landlord would have a board marked up as owing so many Pints and Quarts, so to be sensible, one had to watch one's Ps and Qs. This could be a backronym of course, but I have to say that it does make sense.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Shelley » Fri Mar 09, 2018 3:01 am

Bobinwales, that is so interesting! Makes sense to me, too. The character speaking is "Qwghlm-ish", and I think the author is taking a shot at your very consonant-laden language.
Qwghlm is the name of a fictitious island off the coast of Scotland, featured in the novels Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle trilogy by Neal Stephenson. The island hosts a population who speak a bizarre pithy language, so they become used by the British during World War 2 as codetalkers.
The above description is provided by Chris Applegate at qwghlm.co.uk ("because all the other domain names were taken").

Next time I use the phrase, it will be that much more meaningful, no doubght! I'll have to resist the temptation to tell everyone within hearing all about its origin. And yes, you could be right about the backronym part, but until someone comes up with more facts and figures, I'm buyin'. You can put that on the chalkboard!

Oh, and tony h - I've been around. A few years back, life got a lot more complicated, I said "yes" to one, two, or five too many committees, and started spending weekends in a place without internet. Plus there's sooo much tv to watch. As always, my spirit hovers -- Wordwizard is my home page. Thanks for asking.
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Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:09 am

According to etymologist Michael Quinion, the expression was probably created by Churchill.

See Quinion's article for more details.
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Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:24 am

Wikipedia has a particularly good discussion on the possible origins of
Mind your P’s and Q’s.
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Ken Greenwald — March 8, 2018
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Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Shelley » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:36 am

Ok, well, as usual, it's way more complicated, and thanks for the link, Erik. I don't get why Quinlan chooses the Churchill 1763 poem as the true origin over the older 1612 usage by Rowland, save for the fact that Churchill's reflects the "minding/paying attention to" meaning more closely.

I like the tavern tally, though. Must restore some of the old "scholarly" reticence, and not just go home with the first pretty coinage that strikes my fancy!

This is fun -- but where I live it's 10:30 pm and I have to be up and at 'em early in the morning. (Thinking about retirement a lot these days!)

Later, fellows.
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Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Shelley » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:44 am

Ken Greenwald wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:24 am
Wikipedia has a particularly good discussion on the possible origins of
Mind your P’s and Q’s.
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Ken Greenwald — March 8, 2018
Hi Ken! I had to click around for a while before I got to the Wiki article. It seems to have all the same points that Quinlan made, only shifted around in a different order. Unless I'm clicking and landing in the wrong place.
This all reminds me that I should probably do a little more research before just going, "what's this, oh wordwizards?"
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Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by tony h » Fri Mar 09, 2018 11:13 am

Shelley wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:44 am
Ken Greenwald wrote:
Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:24 am
Wikipedia has a particularly good discussion on the possible origins of
Mind your P’s and Q’s.
____________________________

Ken Greenwald — March 8, 2018
Hi Ken! I had to click around for a while before I got to the Wiki article. It seems to have all the same points that Quinlan made, only shifted around in a different order. Unless I'm clicking and landing in the wrong place.
This all reminds me that I should probably do a little more research before just going, "what's this, oh wordwizards?"
But, if you had done that, I wouldn't have had the enjoyment of being reminded of this discussion. :) and we would not have had that warm feeling of a chance meeting with an old friend.
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Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: Minding ones P's and Q's

Post by Shelley » Sat Mar 10, 2018 5:11 am

I thought of that, too, tony h!
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