I’m known around here as a first-class mangler of phrases and clichés.
For some reason, I have a really tough time with clichés and idioms. I’m always getting them wrong. Take “pedal to the metal”, for instance. For years, I’d say “Petal to the metal”. It rhymes, after all!
So this morning I woke up thinking, “A to Z Challenge. Hmmm. I need a P and I need a Q. Oh, wait! How about ‘mind your Ps and Qs’?”
But I decided I’d better ask my husband first, to make sure.
“Is it ‘Mind your Ps and Qs’?”
He nodded. “Yes, that’s it.”
“I don’t get it, though. Doesn’t it mean, behave yourself? Mind your manners? That sort of thing?”
“Hmmm. Well, I get the P. That would be “please”, right? So what does the Q mean?”
We were both puzzled, so I turned to Google.
As it turns out (according to The Phrase Finder), no-one knows for sure where the phrase originated. But here are the most common suggestions:
- Mind your pints and quarts. (Pub talk.)
- Advice to children or printers’ apprentices to avoid confusing lowercase Ps and Qs.
- Mind your pea (jacket) and queue (wig).
- Mind your pieds (feet) and queues (wigs). (When you’re dancing, that is.)
- Mind your pleases and thank-yous.
It seems to me the last one should have resulted in “mind your Ps and Ts”, but as I’ve mentioned, I’m not exactly the world’s expert in these kinds of things.
And, as The Phrase Finder says about number 2, wouldn’t “mind your Bs and Ds” make more sense in that context?
I’m sure there are a lot more potential origins out there.
I have a fascination with clichés and commonly used phrases. Probably because I can never get them right.
Which is not really something a writer should admit to, I guess. (On the other hand, you’re not likely to find clichés in my writing, since I know I’m sure to get them wrong. That’s got to be a good thing, right?)