Claire Martin

P’s & Q’s – by Claire Martin


I am the daughter of police officers! Yep.. both mother and father were cops (‘splains a lot, eh?!) and both were sticklers for good manners.

Essentially good manners, when my parents started “the job”, was part of the “the job” – ergo it was fastidiously taught to children of coppers.

I was taught my P’s and Q’s (a very British saying that means you should “mind your manners – for the history, see note below) from a very early age. And it stuck. I hold doors open for whomever is behind me. I always say “excuse me” when I have to squeeze past someone, and I always yell out “thank you” to my bus driver at the end of my journey.

Now, I have just been through a rather hellish travel weekend. Wind storms in BC, snow in Alberta, together this created the quintessential “perfect storm” for those of us hoping to effortlessly travel between the two provinces.

Before I go any further it must be said that I LOVE airports, I LOVE travelling and I LOVE people watching. But when, like tumbling dominoes, the variables start collapsing on you, travelling – namely flying – becomes a lesson in patience and civility.

Now I know where you think this story is going! Not so fast my fair reader, not so fast.

At YVR – as one after the other – flights were delayed, then cancelled – there were no raised voices, no shouts of annoyance. No heated debates as to the collective worth of an airline.

Admittedly there was a sea of dismayed faces, but no swearing, no yelling and most importantly no anger directed at the airline employees.

Lines calmly appeared at service counters, flights were re-booked, accommodation was supplied.

I sat in a corner seat admiring my countrymen – dealing with Canadian weather messing with Canadian travel.

And it brought to mind what the Hip’s Gord Downie had said to CBC’s Peter Mansbridge in a one-on-one interview that aired last week (and please, if you missed it.. watch it.) Gord said that our collective Canadian legacy had to be more than just fickle reference to “doughnuts and hockey”, that as a country we needed to think bigger than that.

We are known as a country of people that say “sorry” and “eh” too much.

But a 2015 study, commissioned by TD bank, says Canadians actually say “thank you” a lot more than they say “I’m sorry.”

So, in a true (and I hope lasting) Canadian way – thank you to everyone at YVR on Friday who calmly accepted the weather delays. I am proud to be part of a country that is known as being overly polite.. and it’s not just cos I’m a police officers daughter.. it’s our bigger-than-us Canadian legacy.

Thank you for reading this!

Have you noticed that the world “police” and “polite” are just one small constant apart?!

Note: One of the more enduring theories surrounding the origin of the phrase, is that “minding your p’s and q’s” refers to the difficulty that a young child might initially have in distinguishing the tailed letters p and q, and is therefore something that he or she should attend to with care. 

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  • Reply Tom Cullen October 18, 2016 at 8:01 am

    I believe the origin of “Mind your p’s & q’s” is from the days of hand-set type in the printing business. Since type letters are backwards to create the correct shape when printed, a p and a q can be mistaken easily. Hence the phrase has the meaning of “pay attention to detail” and often in the case of manners, remembering to say please and thank you, for example.

  • Reply Claire Martin October 21, 2016 at 6:19 am

    Hi Tom.. Thanks for the note. Yes, there are a few quoted origins of the phrase.. take a look at this – I personally love the idea that the P stands for pint and the Q for quart, with reference to a landlord not getting these measures mixed up on a customer’s account!

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