Mind Your Ps and Qs – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to tell someone to watch their language around you? This post unpacks the meaning and origin of the phrase “mind your Ps and Qs.”


The expression "mind your Ps and Qs" is a way of telling someone to watch their language. Typically, it's a saying used by seniors that don't like to hear cuss words. They might use the phrase on young people when they hear them cursing in public.

The expression can also mean preparing all your relevant points for a meeting if the investor cross-examines you. Or it could mean to watch your spelling in a letter or email or the subject matter you discuss in your communications.

The saying is archaic language, and it's common with seniors more than young people.

Example Usage

"Dearie me, young man. I've been alive for 86-years, and never in my life have I ever heard someone use such language. Your mother should wash out your mouth with soap and teach you manners. Mind your Ps and Qs when you're around others.""

"Mind your Ps and Qs, Jeff; you're spelling is atrocious, and it's going to cause you to fail the class if you don't attend to it."

"Mind your Ps and Qs, ladies and gents. It's closing time and last call. Please return your glasses to the bar and have a good night."

"Mind your Ps and Qs, the boss is coming over, and we need to be on our best behavior. No talking about the Nielsen contract around him, or we're in trouble."


The expression "mind your Ps and Qs" has disputed origins. Some language experts believe the saying comes from the Thomas Dekker play, "The Untrussing of the Humorous Poet," in 1602, where it appears.

"Afinius: 'Troth, so thou'dst need; for now thou art in thy Pee and Kue: thou hast such a villanous broad back..."

Others state that the origin of the phrase goes back to the use of the term by publicans, "mind your pints and quarts." This reference is to accumulate a tab with the bar for settlement later.

Some experts believe the saying originates from "mind your pleases and thank-yous'." Many people think this source is the likely origin of the phrase, and it makes sense when you consider the way seniors use it today.

Phrases Similar to Mind Your Ps and Qs

  • Watch your language.
  • Stop cussing.

Phrases Opposite to Mind Your Ps and Qs

  • You're a well-articulated person.
  • You never use foul language.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Mind your Ps and Qs.

Ways People May Say Mind Your Ps and Qs Incorrectly

A parent or teacher could use the saying to tell a person to watch their spelling, and while this might seem technically correct use of the phrase, it's not the proper use of the expression. The term also applies less to drinking alcohol at pubs in the US and less to do with minding your language in the UK.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Mind Your Ps and Qs

You can use the saying "mind your Ps and Qs" in social and professional settings. The phrase is a way to tell someone to mind their language without using explicative language yourself.

For instance, if a young person is using foul language in a public setting, a senior might turn to them and say, "mind your Ps and Qs, young man, I've never heard language like that in my life." To which, the youths would likely continue to mock the seniors.

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