P's and Q's points and questions

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 20 22:01:55 UTC 2009

"Harum Skarum"

Is _harum-skarumy_ [h&m sk&mI], "messy," used in any dialect other
than East-Texas BE?

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 9:30 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â P's and Q's points and questions
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> On the OED March 2009 draft revision on P's and Q's. The etymology, after
> "Origin unknown," gives "The variant p. and q. (with points) in quot. 1607 at
> sense 1a suggests that the expression may perhaps have originated as a graphic
> abbreviation or was perceived as such at an early stage."
> 1607 T. DEKKER & J. WEBSTER West-ward Hoe II. i. sig. B4v, At her p. and q.
> neither Marchantes Daughter, Aldermans Wife, young countrey Gentlewoman, nor
> Courtiers Mistris, can match her.
> But, in context, this passage (editions at G Books) is about her orderly
> handwriting of all the letters, and all the letters appear with points. The
> others are not abbreviations (such guesses attested late), so why might this
> one be? The letters mentioned before are all upper case. Only letter v.
> (in one
> edition) afterward is lower case. It is remarked: "Truely sir she tooke her
> letters suddenly: and is now in her Minoms." If the latter means miniscule
> letters, then they are looking at her upper case hand. And upper case P and Q
> are not similar-looking, unlike lowercase p and q. And no other quotation in
> the article gives P and Q (in caps also in the entry title) with points.
> Therefore I suggest that the phrase here [which might be put in brackets as
> non-idiomatic?] refers to uppercase letters. And, in any case, were there a
> reference to pints and quarts, isn't the order backwards, sizewise accounting?
> That the letters in order [cf. element possibly from the Semitic LMN] are the
> possible origin may be echoed in some later quotes [(below) 1780
> "squared their
> Ps and Qs"; 1792, "did not make their P's and Q's exactly."] Making Ps and Qs
> properly, according to protocol, all in order?
> By the way, what is the status of an OED draft entry? E.g., do they,
> after a set
> period, enter the main text?
>> 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 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
>> cudgelled > 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
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
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> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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