What is the origin of mind your P's and Q's?

What is the origin of mind your P's and Q's? Various theories have been put forward. Some say that it was a warning to printers apprentices when sorting type, the letters p and q being almost identical in form, others that it was used in inns, the amount owing being chalked on a board in order that customers should not order more than they could pay for when settling day arrived.
(A recent snippet from my main blog)



You'll stay like that

Like many a child I enjoyed doing this when I was young. I would often be told that I would stay like it. Some say it will happen if the wind changes. I don't think it's true.


Being inconsistent is okay, as long as you don't do it all the time.


Guts for garters

I remember a teacher on school once threatening to have our guts for garters if he caught us doing wrong again. It means, of course, there will be a serious reprisal.
It is apparently British. I read here.
Despite being a long-lived expression there, aided no doubt by the rhythmic alliteration, uses of it aren't found in any great numbers in other countries. It may well have had a literal meaning as it originated in the Middle Ages, when disembowelment was used in the UK for torture and execution. In these more enlightened times the expression is limited to figurative examples like, "I don't want to tell Dad that I've scraped the car - he'll have my guts for garters". A printed reference to 'guts for garters' appears in Robert Greene's The Scottish Historie of James the Fourth, circa 1592:
Ile make garters of thy guttes, Thou villaine.
Whether that was a literal threat and whether people did actually make garters of the guts of their enemies is open to question. I can find no direct evidence of a documented example of such a practice, but it is certainly quite plausible. Worse things happened; the punishment of 'hanged, drawn and quartered' was on the statue book in England until as late as 1790. There are several other instances in the 16th/17th centuries of allusions to the use of someone's guts being made into garters - "Sir, I will garter my hose with your guttes" etc. The earliest use of the actual wording 'guts for garters' that I can find comes quite a long time later, in a piece by William Curry, in The Dublin University Magazine, 1843:
I'll butter my knife in him, and give him his guts for garters.

Salt on yer tail

My paternal grandmother would sometimes threaten to put salt on my tail. I was never quite sure whether to take this literally or whether she was using an unfathomable metaphor. I was aware of the illustration of the boy putting salt on the tail of a live chicken on boxes of Cerebos salt but that did not seem to help. The phrase appears to refer to apprehending a criminal (Brewers -  “His intelligence is so good, that were you to come near him with soldiers or constables, … I shall answer for it you will never lay salt on his tail.”— Sir W. Scott, Redgauntlet, 1824, chap. xi) but begins with putting salt on an animal you want to catch. Perhaps the idea is that if you are close enough to it to put salt on its tail then you are close enough to catch it.


I could sleep on my nose

If my mother was really tired she would sometimes say "I could sleep on my nose". Whether that is actually possible, I'm not sure.




"New birth then leads to the transformation of a darkened mind, a corrupted heart, a deformed morality, perverted affections, a soul antagonistic to God and a thoroughly miserable state. Reason and conscience regain control over the passions and appetites. Self-centred alienation from God and the disorder it promotes are over."
From my book What the Bible teaches about being born again, p 39


A good fortnight

When I was a boy when on rare occasions my dad happened to see a black person on a beach he would love to say "They've 'ad a good fortnight down 'ere". It's racist, of course, but I like the phrase in some ways as it betrays a very working class mindset. The use of the word fortnight rather than week not only suggests that it would take two weeks to get such a tan but reminds us that factory shut down was two weeks long and best spent down at the beach. The object of such a holiday (long before any skin cancer scares) was to lie on the beach and get as brown as ... that reminds me of another thing my dad would say that is not pc any more.


Skivers, Moochers

I have a clear memory of the first time I heard the word skiver. It was my first year, the first weeks probably, in Grammar School. Our class (1E) was in a demountable classroom near the woods - out of bounds, of course. From the woods we heard singing it was Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep by Middle of the Road. A helpful voice said "Skivers miss". I wasn't a hundred per cent sure what the word meant but no doubt it referred to what I had until then known as moochers (everyone else says mitchers). I think I assumed that skiving from Junior School was mooching and mooching from big school was skiving. Mark Twain called it playing hookey I later discovered.
I see mooch is listed here
mooch Verb. 1. To idle away time, to loaf around. E.g."The kids were just mooching about the streets looking for something to do." 2. To amble along, to walk casually. 3. To play truant. [Welsh use] Noun. 1. The idling away of time. 2. The act of ambling or walking casually. E.g."I'm going for a mooch around the shops."