Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mind Your Ps and Qs, Navy Ps and Qs, Os and Ps, HerOes vs. HerPes of the Alfred... Commo./Gen. Esek Hopkins Relieved... OOPS!

The Bon Homme Richard was made famous by the American Navy Captain John Paul
Jones courageous words “We have not yet begun to fight”, and then capturing the British
ship Serapis. Bon Homme Richard was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin who was a
printer, philosopher, and physical scientist made famous initially by his publication Poor
Richard’s Almanac of 1753, who included the proverbial “Mind your P’s and Q’s”.
In the early days of printing, typesetters had to be careful not to mix up the blocks they
used to print letters, particularly the p's and q's. We still say "Mind your p's and q's"
when we want people to mind their manners.
So in this modern technological world, everything changes, and yet everything stays the
same. The need to mind your P’s and Q’s is now a call to mind your P’s and O’s as in
the OCR text recognition error above of changing the o in heroes to a p, giving a vastly
different meaning, yet one that is too often associated with Navy men in ports. OOPS!
Nautical Terminology: Mind Your P's and Q's
Posted on Saturday, April 03, 2004 5:14 PM
There are few of us who at one time or another have not been admonished
to "mind our P's and Q's," or in other words, to behave our best. Oddly
enough, "mind your P's and Q's" had nautical beginnings as a method of
keeping books on the waterfront.
In the days of sail when Sailors were paid a pittance, seamen drank their ale
in taverns whose keepers were willing to extend credit until payday. Since
many salts were illiterate, keepers kept a tally of pints and quarts consumed
by each Sailor on a chalkboard behind the bar. Next to each person's name,
a mark was made under "P" for pint or "Q" for quart whenever a seaman
ordered another draught.
On payday, each seaman was liable for each mark next to his name, so he
was forced to "mind his P's and Q's" or he would get into financial trouble.
To ensure an accurate count by unscrupulous keepers, Sailors had to keep
their wits and remain somewhat sober. Sobriety usually ensured good
behavior, hence the meaning of "mind your P's and Q's.
From the Naval Historical Center website, at the address shown is a time to mind our P’s
and Q’s; and these able historians are acutely aware of how small errors are introduced.

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