Ps and Qs has many different (and conflicting) origins.
QUOTE: "However, if a hobbyist's (rather than a etymologist's) opinion can be entertained for a moment, it's possible a 1612 print sighting yields part of the solution: "Bring in a quart of Maligo, right true: And looke, you Rogue, that it be Pee and Kew."
The context in which that line appears makes it clear that "Pee and Kew" is understood by the book's audience to mean "of the highest quality." Throughout the saying's various surfacings across the centuries, twin themes of quality and good behavior emerge. If "p's and q's" began its linguistic life as a colloquial term for "of marked superiority," the saying could have over time transferred from a statement about the sterling nature of a physical item (such as a quart of booze) to a statement about behavioral traits the very best people should strive to cultivate, then into an admonition to be mindful of one's comportment when in the society of others.
As to how "p's and q's" came to mean "the really best stuff," that can only be guessed at. Perhaps it came from a play then wildly popular but which has since been lost to us. :ENDQUOTE
I wonder if Pee and Kew was a "brand name" ?
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2,545 9/9/13 12:56 A
Huh, interesting. I wonder how "Mind your P's and Q's" became synonymous with minding your manners?
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9/8/13 6:22 P
Wow I never knew where that phrase came from....I always thought it was akin to "If it walks like a duck; talks like a duck.....its a duck!
9/8/13 2:44 P
Thank you, Ladycjm, that was an interesting read. I remember Ms. Waters singing on the Billy Graham telethons years ago, even black and white tv.
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5,855 9/8/13 2:38 P
"Mind your P's and Q's." stems from old English where the pubs offer their repasts in Pints and Quarts and the proprietor always said this to tell the patrons that the last round had been served, so mind your p's and q's.
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2,545 9/8/13 1:58 P
LOL, way too much time! No, actually my plans changed because it was raining. Again. And it's raining again today. So plans changed again.
meaning: calm down example: "I will be off the telephone in a minute, so keep your pants on."
origin: Appears to suggest that one should calm down because romance is not imminent.
I never thought of that
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9,713 9/8/13 10:12 A
FAscinating. I love the sources of the phrases and words we use every day.
For example, one of my favorites is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps."
It was originally used as an example of something that is absurdly *impossible*-- because it's physically impossible to pull oneself to standing using only your bootstraps. Not the meaning we have of it today.
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15,898 9/8/13 12:12 A
Interesting information!!! Thank you!!!!
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2,545 9/7/13 1:37 P
In an earlier post the idiom "Calling a spade a spade" was used and some were concerned that it was a racist statement.
Being of a curious nature and knowing that I had read that phrase somewhere and not having anything better to do I did a wee bit of research (googled) and found some interesting information.
If anyone wants to add a phrase and continue this post, I think it would be interesting to read. I’m cobbling together many on line resources here which I’m not including, partly not to bore you and partly because Mu, the kitten, is trying to steal my straw and I’m trying to stop her.
So here is the definition of the phrase and some other interesting information about the phrase. BTW, Ethel Waters, who I quoted, sounds like a fascinating woman. I can’t wait to read her entire bio.
Second BTW – Please, no knee jerk reactions to some of the older phrases and usages of words. They are what they are and were used at the time.
“To speak plainly - to describe something as it really is.”
It might be thought that this derives from the derogatory use of the slang term 'spade', meaning Negro, an American term originating in the 20th century. That view of it as derogatory might also be thought to be supported by this piece from John Trapp's Mellificium theologicum, or the marrow of many good authors, 1647
"Gods people shall not spare to call a spade a spade, a niggard a niggard."
Trapp's use of 'niggard' is difficult to interpret. The word had several meanings in the 17th century. It could be used to mean 'miser', which is the more common usage today, or as a general term of abuse - 'lout', 'barbarian' etc. The word was also used as the name of firebricks in grates.
The co-incidence in form and pronuctiation of 'niggard' and 'nigger' causes some confusion. Although the two words probably derived independently, they doubtless affected each other's development of meaning over time.
Whatever Trapp's intention was, we can be confident that he didn't mean 'nigger' or 'negro'.
There are other references to the phrase dating back to 1542.
More recent use of the phrase:
When I see a spade I call it a spade. : I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. — Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest, act 3.
I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for. Oscar Wilde
Let's call a spade a spade - a lot of times when you are a vegetarian it is a just not very effective eating disorder. Lena Dunham
The white audiences thought I was white, my features being what they are, and at every performance I'd have to take off my gloves to prove I was a spade. Ethel Waters (Note: I had heard of this lady but didn’t really know anything about her, so looked her up. Fascinating lady, I added some bio info on her at the end).
So, the expression to call a spade a spade is thousands of years old and etymologically has nothing whatsoever to do with any racial sentiment. In spite of this, some people think it is a racial statement, and therefore it should be treated with some caution.
Spade meaning 'a black person' is far more recent; it is first found in the early twentieth century. It derives from the black color of the suit of spades in a deck of playing cards. Clearly our expression to call a spade a spade was very well established long before the word spade had any racial sense. However, today the word does have a racial sense. If the expression is assumed to be offensive, it should be used with caution even if there's no real basis for the assumption.
Ethel Waters 31 October 1896 -1 September 1977 Nickname - Sweet Mama Stringbean
The child of a teenage rape victim she grew up in the slums of Philadelphia and neighboring cities, "No one raised me," she recollected, "I just ran wild." She excelled not only at looking after herself, but also at singing and dancing; she began performing at church functions, and as a teenager was locally renowned for her "hip shimmy shake".
In 1917 she made her debut on the black vaudeville circuit; billed as "Sweet Mama Stringbean" for her tall, lithe build, she broke through with her rendition of "St. Louis Blues. Beginning with her appearances in Harlem nightclubs in the late 1920s, then on the lucrative "white time" vaudeville circuit, she became one of America's most celebrated and highest-paid entertainers. At the Cotton Club, she introduced "Stormy Weather: she wrote of her performance, "I was singing the story of my misery and confusion, the story of the wrongs and outrages done to me by people I had loved and trusted.” Irving Berlin wrote "Supper Time", a song about a lynching, for Waters to perform in a Broadway revue. She later became the first African-American star of a national radio show. In middle age, first on Broadway and then in the movies, she successfully recast herself as a dramatic actress. Devoutly religious but famously difficult to get along with, Waters found few roles worthy of her talents in her later years.
She sang with the Billy Graham Crusade in her later years, always to a warm reception, and recorded several albums of sacred music for Word Records. She was the second African-American actress to be nominated for an Academy Award. The first was Hattie McDaniel, who won for her performance in Gone with the Wind (1939). Her favorite hymn was "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." She used it for the title of her autobiography.
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