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mind one's p's and q's

Slang definitions & phrases for mind one's p's and q's

mind one's p's and q's

verb phrase

To take care of one's affairs carefully and exclusively: What the hell are you staring at, madam, you mind your p's and q's

[1779+; fr the fact that the two similar letters are particularly hard to distinguish in type, where their ordinary shapes are reversed]


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with mind one's p's and q's

mind one's p's and q's

Practice good manners, be precise and careful in one's behavior and speech, as in Their grandmother often told the children to mind their p's and q's. The origin of this expression, first recorded in 1779, is disputed. Among the more interesting theories advanced is that bartenders kept track of customers' consumption in terms of pints (p's) and quarts (q's) and the phrase referred to an honest accounting; that schoolchildren were taught to be careful in distinguishing the letters p and q; and that French dancing masters cautioned pupils about the correct performance of the figures pieds and queues (either abbreviated or mispronounced in English as p's and q's).
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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