Friday, April 19, 2013

P and Q are for your P's and Q's

In high school, I had an English teacher who was really big into "allusions" and the origins of common phrases. We had to bring in 4 examples of allusions every quarter, and memorize fun facts about phrases as a part of a "cultural literacy" unit.

The phrase "mind your P's and Q's" means to mind your manners and be on your best behavior. There are two probably origins of this phrase, as I recall from 10th grade English. The first is from old timey pubs, where innkeepers and bartenders would keep track of patrons' tabs by writing down how many pints and quarts a person had consumed. So mind your p's and q's meant, for the bartender, keep track of what people owe you, and for the customer, be a good guest and pay your bill.

The second alternative is stems from the first printing presses that used individual letter keys. Lowercase p and q could be easily switched, since on a press, each letter is a mirror image of itself. So the phrase was a reminder to the printer to always double check his work.

So how have I been minding my Ps and Qs these days?

Well, I'm gearing up to attend a writing conference in May, where I signed up to pitch a project to an agent. My initial plan was to pitch a project I have been working on-and-off for I-don't-want-to-reveal-how-much time.

Some time ago, I realized that this project is my white whale (allusion!) and as much as I love it, I may need to buckle in and try something new. In the last year, I came to a new philosophy about my writing ambitions: internal deadlines. If I can't move on from Project X in Y amount of time, it might be best to give Project X a rest and start in on Project Z.

And that's what I've done, and it's going swimmingly. I hope to have Project Z to critiquers and beta readers in time, because gosh, it's going to be awkward if I don't. But that's what's new with me!

What's new with you?


  1. I love how you combined letters for the challenge. :)

  2. Interesting origins for this saying. Oddly enough though, neither one seems to be related to minding your manners...??

    I know what you mean with trying to decide when it's time to move onto the next project. It's so hard when you pour so much of yourself into something and believe in it so much. But moving on isn't the same as letting go I suppose.

    Have fun with a-z.

  3. My teacher loved that 'p&q's phrase. I've heard the printing explanation several times, but the other one is new.
    Good luck in getting those projects sorted out! It can be a real battle sometimes. I know.