Mind Your P’s and Q’s

The ABC’s of Professionalism

There are several stories about how the English expression, “mind your P’s and Q’s” came to be. One such theory says that 17th Century barkeepers kept track of their patrons’ consumption and would instruct them to “mind their pints and quarts.” Centuries later my Grandma used the same expression with her young grandchildren. It never dawned on me that she was concerned about my drinking habits. From the perspective of a six-year old, I assumed she was talking about my manners.

It’s a curious thing that we have so many words for this antiquated expression.  Thankfully we’re still concerned about subject, whatever one chooses to call it.

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

Politeness is to human nature what warmth is to wax.” — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

“Nothing is less important than which fork you use. Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.” — Emily Post (1872-1960)

“Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Civility costs nothing and buys everything.” — Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762)

“Without an acquaintance with the rules of propriety, it is impossible for the character to be established.” — Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), The Confucian Analects

“Observe decorum, and it will open a path to morality.” — Mason Cooley (1927-2002)

The fact that mankind has adopted codes of behavior has been constant throughout recorded history. What have changed are the specific rules and their relative importance. The character of George Washington was strongly influenced by “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Here are a few samples:

#15 — Keep your nails clean and short, also your hands and teeth clean yet without showing any great concern for them.

#19 — Let your countenance be pleasant but in serious matters somewhat grave.

#22 — Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.

#108 — When you speak of God, or His attributes, let it be seriously and with reverence. Honor and obey your natural parents although they be poor.

#110 — Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

— Catherine Millard, “Rewriting of America’s History” pp.59-60

Those with adult children know first-hand how technology and generational attitudes affect changes in the current code. Certain “P’s and Q’s” of one generation might be “don’t know and don’t care” to a younger demographic. They are busy with other priorities. I don’t have access to President Washington’s entire list, but it’s a certain bet that it does not include the proper way to “de-friend” someone from one’s cellular favorites.

Cell phones and email are among the top disruptive technologies of the last 15 years. Appropriate behaviors are still being defined and learned.  For fun, I visited some Web sites that addressed cell phone etiquette of which I chose five for comparison. The authors agreed that ringers should be off in places like theaters, cell phones and driving don’t mix, and talking louder on a cell phone is unnecessary and rude. Four of the five complained about personalized ring tones. After that, they were all over the map, indicating we don’t yet have a common baseline for cell phone etiquette.

One way to learn about manners is to Google “pet peeves”. There are pet peeve lists about cell phone usage, driving, recruiting, baseball, the workplace, the bathroom, and even pet pet peeves. Those gripes which enough people share will eventually spawn new or revised rules of etiquette.  However, these lists also contain some pretty petty pet peeves. (Maybe alliteration is on yours.)

Bad manners (good manners, too) affect everyone.

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude.” — Maurice Baring (1874–1945)

Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” — Author Unknown

There’s an interesting three-way relationship among respect, manners, and morals in the following quotation:

“To have respect for ourselves guides our morals; and to have a deference for others governs our manners.” — Lawrence Sterne (1713-1768)

The subtle but important meaning is an inferred relationship between morals and manners. Without this connection, manners would merely be arbitrary conventions. Good manners come in two forms: acts of kindness and omissions of kindness (things one refrains from doing or saying.) In most cases these are small, simple matters requiring little knowledge and effort.

“Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

“Good manners: The noise you don’t make when you’re eating soup.” — Bennett Cerf (1898-1971)

Like all character issues, minding one’s P’s and Q’s produces tangible social and professional benefits.  In fact, the return often far exceeds the investment.

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” — Thomas Sowell (1930- ), Creators Syndicate

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” — Clarence Thomas (1948- )

“Outcomes rarely turn on grand gestures or the art of the deal, but on whether you’ve sent someone a thank-you note.” — Bernie Brillstein (1931-2008), “The Little Stuff Matters Most”

P’s and Q’s can help produce “peace and quiet” in a fast-paced, stressful world for you and those whom you meet.

“Good manners and soft words have brought many a difficult thing to pass.” — Sir John Vanbrugh (1664?-1726)

God bless,

— CC

[ O=Optimism | Index | R=Responsibility ]

© Copyright November 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Essay By Committee

For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present.1 We continue to see increases in taxation, regulations and entitlements, each resulting in the surrender of more liberty.  The discourse of our time reflects the rationale behind this. “Rights” have replaced “personal responsibility” and “equal opportunity” now means “equal outcome.” But reality teaches that a society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.2

The philosophy of “spreading the wealth around” is gaining new traction, putting Americans on an accelerated course toward unabashed dependency on government. We may soon be known as the US2A (United Socialist States of America) and what a shame! Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it.3

Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what has worked with what sounded good. In area after area- crime, education, housing, race relations- the situation has gotten worse after the bright new theories were put into operation. The amazing thing is that this history of failure and disaster has neither discouraged the social engineers nor discredited them.4 For example, it is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer “universal health care.”5

The most basic question is not what is best but who shall decide what is best.6 It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.7 Besides, the best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away.8

No single person possesses anything close to the invisible collective knowledge held by the society as a whole.9 The only way that has ever been discovered to have a lot of people cooperate together voluntarily is through the free market. And that’s why it’s so essential to preserving individual freedom.10 Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries.11

People who denounce the free market and voluntary exchange, and are for control and coercion, believe they have more intelligence and superior wisdom to the masses. What’s more, they believe they’ve been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Of course, they have what they consider good reasons for doing so, but every tyrant that has ever existed has had what he believed were good reasons for restricting the liberty of others.12


How do we get back on course and stay there?13

The real goal should be reduced government spending, rather than balanced budgets achieved by ever rising tax rates to cover ever rising spending.14 Elections should be held on April 16th- the day after we pay our income taxes. That is one of the few things that might discourage politicians from being big spenders.15

Teach basic economics starting in grade school. The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.16 The second lesson of economics: the most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.17 Capitalism knows only one color: that color is green; all else is necessarily subservient to it, hence, race, gender and ethnicity cannot be considered within it.18

Work to restore the original concept of “rights.” A right, such as a right to free speech, imposes no obligation on another, except that of non-interference. The so-called right to health care, food or housing, whether a person can afford it or not, is something entirely different; it does impose an obligation on another. If one person has a right to something he didn’t produce, simultaneously and of necessity it means that some other person does not have right to something he did produce. That’s because, since there’s no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy, in order for government to give one American a dollar, it must, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American.19

Government is necessary, but the only rights we can delegate to government are the ones we possess. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Since we possess that right, we can delegate authority to government to defend us. By contrast, we don’t have a natural right to take the property of one person to give to another; therefore, we cannot legitimately delegate such authority to government.20


I don’t believe in a government that protects us from ourselves.21 Perhaps, the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”22 Put another way, politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.23

The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.24 Three-fifths to two-thirds of the federal budget consists of taking property from one American and giving it to another. Were a private person to do the same thing, we’d call it theft. When government does it, we euphemistically call it income redistribution, but that’s exactly what thieves do — redistribute income. Income redistribution not only betrays the founders’ vision, it’s a sin in the eyes of God.25

The task of weaning various people and groups from the national nipple will not be easy. The sound of whines, bawls, screams and invective will fill the air as the agony of withdrawal pangs finds voice.26 America needs a government, not a “giverment.” We have it within our power to begin the world over again.27 The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something.28

God bless,

— CC

This essay is comprised of 28 separate quotations, by 10 different people and strung together as if they had coauthored the piece.  Each quotation starts either at the beginning of a paragraph or where the previous quote ended and ends at the reference number.
Italicized texts are my contributions as “committee chair.”

1 Reagan, Ronald. 1981 Inaugural Address, <www.reaganfoundation.org/reagan/speeches/first.asp>
2 Friedman,
Milton quoted by Burton Folsom, Jr.
3 Sowell, Thomas. <www.worldofquotes.com>
4 Sowell, Thomas. <www.theadvocates.org/celebrities/thomas-sowell.html>
5 Sowell, Thomas. “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene”, Feb. 25, 2004, <townhall.com>
6 Sowell, Thomas. <www.worldofquotes.com>
7 Sowell, Thomas. <www.brainyquote.com>
8 Reagan, Ronald. <www.quotationspage.com>
9 Goldberg, Jonah paraphrasing Friedrich Hayek. <freedomkeys.com/intellectuals.htm>
10 Friedman, Milton. “Free to Choose”, <miltonfriedman.blogspot.com/>
11 Rand,
Ayn. “For The New Intellectual”, <aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/freedom.html>
12 Williams,
Walter. “WorldNetDaily”, <www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=56713>
13 Thomas,
Claude. <pastorclaudethomas.us/getting-back-on-course/>
14 Sowell, Thomas. Interview by John Hawkins, <www.rightwingnews.com/interviews/sowell.php>
15 Sowell, Thomas. <thinkexist.com>
16 Sowell, Thomas. “Is Reality Optional? – And Other Essays” p.131
17 Friedman, Milton. <www.brainyquote.com>
18 Sowell, Thomas. <www.icelebz.com>
19 Williams,
Walter E. June 6, 2007, <www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/wew/articles/07/compassion.htm>
20 Williams,
Walter E. <www.quotationcollection.com/author/Walter_E._Williams/quotes>
21 Reagan, Ronald. Reason Magazine, July 1975, <www.reason.com/news/show/29318.html>
22 Reagan, Ronald. <politicalhumor.about.com>
23 Reagan, Ronald. <www.quotationspage.com>
24 Reagan, Ronald. <www.quotationspage.com>
25 Williams,
Walter E. “Capitalism Magazine”, Feb. 8, 2006, <www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4562>
26 Bowles,
Linda. <www.tsowell.com>
27 Paine,
Thomas quoted by Ronald Reagan. March 8, 1983, <www.ronaldreagan.com/sp_6.html>
28 de Saint-Exupery,
Antoine. <thinkexist.com>