P's and Q's points and questions

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Apr 20 23:53:34 UTC 2009

At 4/20/2009 03:48 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:
>Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
>Careful! Somebody's going to take that one seriously!!

And the problem of passing (ety)mythology on, when authors in
exfoliating sequence cite the error of their predecessors, is only
magnified by the speed of the Internet.

Larry, I enjoyed  your myth!  I only quibble that I personally was
not claiming an etymology, but rather merely speculating about the
practices of 17th-century ordinaries.

As for the myth, I place the origin earlier, with a more ancient
civilization -- Chinese orphans who in their urgency to get "more
pease, please" often inadvertently found their pigtails (or "queues",
as they came to be called in English) in the porridge.


>m a m
>-- In case of conflict, Murphy's Law supersedes Ohm's. (And Grimm's,
>and Verner's, and Newton's I, II, and III, and...)
>On Mon, Apr 20, 2009 at 3:00 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> > I think this is just crying out for an etymythology.
> >
> > "Minding one's P's and Q's" actually dates back to an 18th century
> > practice in which young orphans in the East End of London had to wait
> > in a long line for their humble and tasteless meals.  They would be
> > cautioned by the cruel taskmaster not to let their pease porridge
> > slop over the side of their bowls, and not to cut in front of anyone
> > else in the line (or queue, as it is called in England).   Any
> > failure to comply with these orders would lead to a severe whipping.
> > This came to be known as learning or minding your pease and queues.
> > Eventually, this was confused with the letters of the alphabet, and
> > people thought that knowing how to act properly meant minding your
> > P's and Q's.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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