The Origin of P’s and Q’s

I love English signs.  The last time I was in England, I started taking photos of typical British signs: “Mind Your Head.”  “Park Tidy.”  “Way Out” (is this a description or a direction?)    Probably the most famous is “Mind the Gap” reminding one to be careful not to step in the small space between the platform and the underground Tube.

My favorite was found on a wooden bench in Scotland: “Old Contemptibles Association – In Memory of Our Comrades” Doesn’t that excite your imagination? Who are these “old contemptibles” and how did they get that way?

“Mind your p’s and q’s” is an old English term that came from the early pubs there.  You were supposed to keep track of the amount of ale you consumed, and then settle up with the owner at the end of the evening, paying for the pints and quarts you drank.  The pub’s system of payment was based on  communal courtesy and trust in the daily public interactions.  This phrase and the system behind it made operating a pub so much more pleasant and smooth running, not just for the owner but the customer as well. Now this phrase is associated more with etiquette and the details of protocol in all our communal transactions, and by heeding these small courtesies and details, we make all our daily transactions more pleasurable and civil.

Next Blogpost will be your my first blog lesson in etiquette, on How to Properly Eat a Scone. 🙂

Yours for Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence,

Mary Alice