P's and Q's, 1756...

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Apr 18 14:56:58 UTC 2009

Often when I see a dating in the 18th century, I wonder what Early
American Newspapers may have.  The best it does for "P's and Q's"
seems to be 1813 -- but an 1836 article asserts an etymology!

The OED (draft rev. Mar. 2009) says "The suggestion that sense 1b
["to mind (also watch) one's P's and Q's"] referred originally to a
landlord confusing pints and quarts (of beer) on a customer's account
can be neither substantiated nor dismissed (compare PINT n., QUART n.1)."

Perhaps the following is a substantiation.  ;-)

 From the Barre [VT] Gazette; Date: 05-06-1836; Volume: II; Issue:
51; Page: [3]:

The origin of the phrase, "Mind your own P's and Q's," is not
generally known. In ale houses, where chalk scores were formerly
marked upon the wall, or behind the door of the tap room, it was
customary to put these initial letters at the head of every man's
account, to show the number of pints and quarts for which he was in
arrears; and we may presume many a friendly rustic to have tapped his
neighbor on the shoulder when he was indulging too freely in his
potations, and to have exclaimed, as he pointed to the score, "Giles!
Giles! Mind your P's and Q's.

(Copied by the New Orleans Times Picayune a year later.)

The 1813 is from the Evening Post [NY, NY],  Date: 04-21-1813; Issue:
3345; Page: [2]:

But his excellency knows well how to manage his p's and q's.


At 4/18/2009 10:21 AM, Stephen Goranson wrote:
>OED 2nd ed. has 1779.
>The life and memoirs of Mr. Ephraim Tristram Bates, commonly called Corporal
>Bates, a broken-hearted soldier: who, from a private centinel in the guards,
>was, from his merits, advanced, regularly, to be corporal serjeant, and
>pay-master serjeant, and had he lived a few days longer, might have died a
>commission-officer, to the great loss of his lamentable lady, whose
>marriage he
>had intended to declare as soon as his commission was signed, and who, to make
>up for the loss of so dear an husband, and her pension, which then no Duke on
>earth could have hindered, in order to put bread in the mouths of seven small
>children, the youngest now at her breast, the sweet creatures being two twins,
>publishes these memoirs from the original papers, sealed up with the seal of
>dear Mr. Bates, and found, exactly as he mentioned in his last will and
>testament, in an oven, never used, where, in his life time, he secreted many
>state papers, &c. &c. &c.
>London, 1756. 237 pp. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. (1759 ed. on
>Page 83:
>"Mind your P's and your Q's and always travel in the Autumn."
>Account of a debate in Coachmaker's Hall. By Harum Skarum, Esq.
>Skarum, Harum.
>London, 1780. 28 pp. p.19
>Now, Mr. President, had I been consulted, I would have squared their Ps and Qs
>after another fashion. The moment the rebellion broke out...
>The Candidate: A Farce in Two Acts, as it is Performed ...
>By John Dent (The Second Edition; London, 1782) (Google Books full text,
>including title page and running heads) page 5, Act I, Scene II:
>Negus. Well, mind your hits, and all our turns may be served. These contested
>elections are the very spirit of the Constitution, and make every thing
>full of life and vigour. Now, be sure, d'ye hear? that you are, all of
>you, very
>civil and attentive, and don't stand upon throwing in three or four dozens of
>bows extraordinary; Sir Gregory is a very rich and worthy man, tho' a little
>proud, or so, but no matter for that, take care of your Ps and Qs, and this
>affair may put something handsome in your pockets.
>History of the royal malady [of George III]
>with variety of entertaining anecdotes, to which are added strictures on the
>declaration of Horne Tooke, Esq. respecting "Her Royal Highness the
>Princess of
>Wales," commonly called (The Hon.) Mrs. Fitzherbert. With
>interesting remarks on
>a Regency.
>Philip Withers;  Page of the presence.;  John Horne Tooke
>1789 [not 1783]
>English Book Book 88 p. ; 24 cm.
>London, The Author, [UMich hathi trust]
>Great Britain - 1783
>Page 19
>The Difficulty is to secure a part. the other Physicians are as full
>of intrigue
>as the Devil. Egad, every man is for himself in this world.
>I muft mind my Ps and Qs with the Queen and the Chancellor. Aye, aye, my boy,
>that's the mark; they will certainly be the guardians of his person.
>The Foresters, an American tale - Page 72-73
>by Jeremy Belknap - History - 1792 - 216 pages
>About this time old Lewis had grown sick and peevish, and had severely
>some [p.73] of his apprentices, because they did not make their P's and Q's
>exactly to his mind.* The poor fellows, to prevent ...
>*Revocation of the edict of Nantes, by Lewis XIV. 1685.
>Stephen Goranson
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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