"23 skiddoo"

Jewls2u Jewls2u at WHIDBEY.COM
Wed Oct 2 17:29:37 UTC 2002

I always thought "take a powder" meant "go powder your nose". Women leave
the table so the men can talk. If you are a man of no stature in the group,
then you take a powder with the women.


-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Of Fred Shapiro
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 8:43 AM
Subject: Re: "23 skiddoo"

On Tue, 1 Oct 2002, Gerald Cohen wrote:

>     I always associated "23" (= scram, go away) with the twenty-third
> psalm, recited so often at funerals; the number connected with
> departing from this world may have become generic for rapid departure.
>     Cf. "take a powder" (scram, leave), originally referring to
> putting a poisonous powder in one's drink. Death-wishes have provided
> at least one expression for slang "scram," perhaps more.

I won't get back into criticizing people for blue-sky etymological
conjectures at this point, but let me ask Jerry, what is your evidence for
"taking a powder" originally referring to putting a poisonous powder in
one's drink?

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Public Services     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               http://quotationdictionary.com

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