….or mind your p’s and q’s.
In literature, a quibble is a common plot device, used to fulfill the exact verbal conditions of an agreement in order to avoid the intended meaning. Its most common uses are in legal bargains and, in fantasy, magically enforced ones.
A quillet is a word that means both ‘a small piece of land’and also ‘a verbal quibble’. Source: Sh’s Legal Language a dictionary. B.J. Sokol and Mary Sokol.
Hamlet Ham V.i.97
Where be his quiddities now, his quillets,
Henry VI Part 1 1H6 II.iv.17
But in these nice sharp quillets of the law,
Henry VI Part 2 2H6 III.i.261
And do not stand on quillets how to slay him;
Love’s Labour’s Lost LLL IV.iii.286
Some tricks, some quillets, how to cheat the devil!
Othello Oth III.i.23
Prithee keep up thy quillets – there’s a poor piece
Timon of Athens Tim IV.iii.156
Nor sound his quillets shrilly. Hoar the flamen,
Source: Shakespeare’s Words website.
As the porter says in Makkers about drink making an equivocator:
Therefore much drink may be said to be an equivocator with lechery; it makes him and it mars him; it sets him on and it takes him off; it persuades him and disheartens him, makes him stand to and not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep and giving him the lie, leaves him.
Quarrels give us more room for scope and number 103 references over 31 plays, including Two Noble Kinsmen and Edward 3.
Whilst watching Romeo and Juliet at the Embankment Gardens, it struck me that Juliet quibbles with Paris when she is on her way to Friar Lawrence.
PARIS: Come you to make confession to this father?
JULIET: To answer that, I should confess to you.
PARIS: Do not deny to him that you love me.
JULIET: I will confess to you that I love him.
PARIS: So will ye, I am sure, that you love me.
JULIET: If I do so, it will be of more price, Being spoke behind your back, than to your face.
PARIS: Poor soul, thy face is much abused with tears.
JULIET: The tears have got small victory by that,
For it was bad enough before their spite.
PARIS: Thou wrongest it more than tears with that report.
JULIET: That is no slander, sir, which is a truth.
And what I spake, I spake it to my face.
PARIS: Thy face is mine, and thou hast slandered it.
JULIET: It may be so, for it is not mine own. –
Are you at leisure, holy father, now,
Or shall I come to you at evening mass?
R+J Act 4: Sc. 1.
To be continued with the likes of AYLI and LLL etc etc etc