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P's and Q's

Mind your P's and Q's. Be very circumspect in your behaviour. Several explanations have been suggested, but none seems to be wholly satisfactory. The following comes nearest to the point of the caution:- In the reign of Louis XIV., when wigs of unwieldy size were worn, and bows were made with very great formality; two things were specially required, a “step” with the feet, and a low bend of the body. In the latter the wig would be very apt to get deranged, and even to fall off. The caution, therefore, of the French dancing-master to his pupils was, “Mind your P's [i.e. pieds, feet] and Q's [i.e. queues, wigs].”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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