JMB at STRADLEY.COM
Wed Oct 2 18:04:57 UTC 2002
While we're waiting for Doug Wilson to produce support for his conjecture, I'd like to point out that it isn't as far-fetched as it might seem. The original form of the phrase, if the OED citations are any guide, was "take a run-out powder," and the identification of run-out powders with laxatives seems plausible, though of course still conjectural.
This is hardly an end to the inquiry. If "take a run-out powder" means "take a laxative and leave to go to the bathroom," we would expect that "run-out powder" would mean "laxative" literally. As far as I know, that has not yet been demonstrated. Perhaps Barry can help? Also, I haven't checked RHHDAS.
"Take a powder" usually implies the possibility of a later return, so that seems inconsistent with the theory that the powder is a suicidal poison, a theory without any other obvious support. The "powder room" theory is consistent with the meaning but not with the early "run-out powder" uses.
From: Fred Shapiro [mailto:fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2002 12:53 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Re: "23 skiddoo"
On Wed, 2 Oct 2002, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
> I doubt the "poison" sense here. I tentatively prefer a laxative powder as
> the original sense.
Again, what is your evidence? And if there is no evidence, what basis is
there for a preference?
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