mind one's ps and qs

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Alternative forms[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”[1]. Also recorded as in thy Pee and Kue in 1602.



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.


  1. ^ Samuel Rowlands (1612) Knave of Harts: “Bring in a quart of Maligo, right true: And looke, you Rogue, that it be Pee and Kew.”

Further reading[edit]