mind one's ps and qs

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Uncertain; OED (2007) considers the most likely origin the distinction of the minuscule letters p and q in either the school-room or the printing-office.

In the early 17th century however, there is the expression pee and kew in the sense of "highest quality, best possible"

Bring in a quart of Maligo, right true: And looke, you Rogue, that it be Pee and Kew.
—Rowlands' Knave of Harts of 1612

Also recorded as in thy Pee and Kue in 1602.

Pronunciation[edit]

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Verb[edit]

mind one's ps and qs

  1. (idiomatic) To be very careful to behave correctly.
    When we go to visit, do remember to mind your ps and qs, children — we don't want another incident like last time.