The British Are Happy To Form A Queue Not A Que Line
Britain is one of a few countries where people just understand the benefits of queues and are willing for form a queue (Note: Not a que or que line!) for just about anything. Maybe the British people like the fairness of a queue or just want to avoid the embarrassment or arguments associated with pushing in ahead of people waiting for the same thing you are.
So if the queue is such a good idea why did the English language make queue such mess of creating the word we use for a queue. It's difficult to spell, with even native English speakers miss spelling the word. Google has an incorrect spelling “queueing” as one of the most popular search words instead of “queuing”. And common miss spellings is to call a queue "que" or "que line".
Then if you add the difficulty of how you pronounce the word queue because English speakers also use the same word sounds for Kew, Q and cue. It is no wonder that English language students find it all very confusing. So this week we will help you sort all of this out once and for all.
Hi there I'm Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Adept English is here to help you with your English language learning. And this is the Monday podcast – so slightly longer than our Thursday podcast. Listen to it a number of times and use the transcript on our website to help you understand all the words and phrases. Repeat listening will help you to learn the new vocabulary and help it to stick in your mind.
So one of the rules of the Seven Rules of Adept English is that we give you ‘a helping hand’. And the ‘helping hand’ is Rule Six of the Seven Rules of Adept English. So in the spirit of Rule Six, let's talk today about some confusing words in English, which all sound the same, but which have different spellings and different meanings. So these words are queue, cue, Kew and Q.
Now if you're listening to this podcast without the transcript in front of you - that's the written version of this podcast, always available on our website at adeptenglish.com - then those four words probably all sounded the same. Queue, cue, Kew and Q. And that's the point. But they're four different words, each with different spelling, each with different meanings.
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There is an easy way of getting the word queue pronunciation correct
So the spellings then are:-
queue - Q-U-E-U-E
cue - C-U-E
Kew - K-E-W
And Q - which is just the letter Q.
So given these different spellings and different meanings of the word that you hear as Q - a word first on pronunciation. If you struggle to say this, if you struggle to pronounce it, then here's some help. Just imagine the word 'you' - you must know that word you, Y-O-U - in the context of I, you, he, she, it, we, they - like when you’re learning verbs. So you, then just put a K in the front of it - 'k-you' And there you have it. Say it a bit quicker and it becomes ‘kyou’. You're now pronouncing the word queue. [Or cue or Kew or Q!].
So let's take the first spelling of queue, so that is Q-U-E-U-E. That's a difficult spelling when you first come across it in English. Queue. Well, it's both a verb 'to queue' and a noun 'a queue' or 'the queue'. And it's something that's really part of British culture. When there are a lot of people, all waiting for something - then what do we do? We form an orderly queue. We stand behind one another in a line and this is called a queue. And if we’re standing in the queue, then we are queueing.
In the US, they wouldn't talk so much about a queue, Q-U-E-U-E in this context. No, they would call it a line and they would call queueing ‘standing in line’. So examples of places where you might queue or you might join a queue would be at the bus stop - when you’re waiting for your bus. Or it could be at the ticket office when you want to get onto a train. You might queue in a shop, waiting to be served. You're likely to queue at an airport, waiting to check-in your bags. In fact, travel generally involves quite a bit of queueing of some kind. So people form a queue.
You can queue the music but you cannot Kew the music
But sometimes this word queue is used where there are actual people waiting in line, but sometimes a queue can be a line of requests or orders. So if you’re buying something online, then probably you type in your details, you make your order, your request to buy something and often your order – it goes into a queue. So there’ll be a queue of orders. And then at some point later, someone will come and process the orders, will fulfil your request. So that's a different type of queue – it’s an online queue if you like. Similarly, if you make a phone call to an organisation – this happens a lot in the UK - you'll often be told that ‘your call is in a queue'.
It's very frustrating, but what that generally means is that there are a few people who called the same telephone number as you did, but they're ahead of you in the queue, all waiting to be answered. So generally they play some music, usually bad music, down the phone while, you wait for your call to come to the front of the queue. If you either work in a call centre, or you make calls which are handled by call centres, then you'll be very familiar with this system of queueing. So that's 'to queue' or 'a queue' - Q-U-E-U-E.
So if you know any meanings of the word queue (cue, Kew or Q), it's probably this one. And it's very much part of British culture. We form a queue more automatically perhaps than happens in other cultures. It's noticeable in other parts of Europe even, that people don't queue in the same way. They just sort of merge and there's a bit of luck about who gets there first. But people in the UK might get a bit cross with you, a bit annoyed with you, if they think that you are 'jumping the queue' - that means that you're trying to get ahead of your place in the queue. So it's seen as polite to queue and impolite not to queue.
Pushing in front of people in a queue (Not a que line) in Britain is very poor manners and you will get stared at or even shouted at for doing it
OK. So what about the next word, cue, C-U-E? Well, this spelling has a couple of meanings. The first is simpler, but not used as much perhaps. A cue as a noun is a physical thing. Here you're talking about a stick made out of wood. And it's a special type of stick - it's what you use to play snooker or pool. So these are games, sports if you like, balls on a table and you have to knock them into pockets. And the cue is the stick that you use, made of wood, which you use to hit the balls with. So a snooker cue or a pool cue are made of wood.
But C-U-E, cue is used in a different sense. If you’re an actor, particularly one acting on a stage, then when you’re acting, your cue, C-U-E is the point at which you either appear on the stage - or the point at which you start to speak. So that's the original meaning of cue. So you might say there, that somebody ‘missed their cue’ - they were supposed to speak and they didn’t, they mistimed it. But cue, C-U-E is used much more broadly than that now. So if you’re speaking with a member of your family and say there is a subject that you would like to bring up. Something you may want to speak about and perhaps it's a bit difficult.
Well, if the family member starts themselves to talk about this difficult subject, then you might say to yourself 'Ah, that's my cue. I can start speaking about it'. So a cue is something that happens in a social conversation. It can be an opportunity to talk about something, or it could be a cue to do something – like leave maybe? So if you've been at your friend's house all afternoon and then they suddenly notice the time and they stand up and they say to you 'Well, it's been really nice seeing you this afternoon. When are we going to catch up again?' You might discuss that a bit more, but really that's your cue to leave. That's the sign that your meeting is over. It's time to go home. So that's a social cue. Some people read cues like this very easily. Some people have trouble recognising them at all.
You need understand the importance of the queuing (not queueing) to British people
So just to summarise that one – a cue, C-U-E is either a stick you use to hit a ball in Snooker or Poole - or it's a sign, perhaps that it's your turn to speak, or a social sign of what the 'right thing to do is' - what the other person expects of you. So that could be 'to leave' or 'to pay for something' or to kiss somebody or to not start the food until somebody else does. It’s usually about manners. Those are social cues.
OK then, what about Kew, when it's spelt K-E-W? Well, if you are looking at the transcript, you might notice that this word has a capital letter, this spelling has a capital letter. So Kew, K-E-W is actually a place. It’s an area of South West London. It’s a very nice area actually. In Kew you will also find Kew Gardens – very famous botanical gardens. Botanical means to do with plants. There are lots of things to see at Kew and it’s very pretty. So Kew, the place means the Gardens, but it also means the area of South West London. It’s near Richmond, if you know Richmond at all.
And finally Q – that’s just spelt with a capital letter Q. Well that just means the letter Q. So it sounds the same – remember K and the word you, ‘k-you’ as the other words – and sometimes we would say Q just to mean the letter – like if we were spelling something out. So if you want to spell quick, Q-U-I-C-K or quiz Q-U-I-Z. But very often when you come across the letter Q being used capitalised, it stands for something.
There’s a word which the letter is meaning. So if you hear the term Q&A – it probably has an ampersand in the middle [&]. That stands for ‘Questions and Answers’ or you see sometimes on websites FAQs. That stands for Frequently Asked Questions. But if you see QA, that could also stand for Quality Assurance – that’s in a business context. So when we use a letter or a set of letters to mean a whole word, that’s called an abbreviation. And an abbreviation just means something that makes it shorter.
OK, so there you have it. Four different spellings and meanings of the word queue (cue, Kew or Q). If you don’t understand this podcast after the first two listens because it’s confusing, it may be easier if you go to our website at adeptenglish.com and look at the transcript, the written version. It might make sense when you do that!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
The 7 Rules of Adept English will help you with your English language learning. Every one of the Adept English podcast English lessons, or website articles, is based on one of the 7 rules of Adept English. So it is important that you understand what the 7 rules of Adept English are, you can learn all about them from our free course available here.
This English podcast came from rule 6 “The helping hand” and focuses on why the British form a queue. The lesson dives deep into the problems with the pronunciation and sounds associated with the word "queue”. The reason we talked about queues is that this is an important part of British culture.
Even though people speak English in the US, Canada or Australia the cultural attitude to queuing is different, so the word "queue” is just less important in everyday language. Here in Britain you not only need to spell and pronounce the word queue, but you need to know about Kew, Q and cue. You need to because a queue in Britain is just more important.
You can always find more interesting learn English articles here.