In our rich and extensive language, there are many words or expressions that are nothing but euphemisms to help us when we want to refer to other words ruder. The sexual act, as well as the names of our sexual organs, are, without doubt, the aim of most of the euphemisms in our language.
Surely you’ve heard at some other time the expression “take a powder” to refer to the sexual act. While it is a term very widely spread among the Spanish society, few know of its possible provenance and no one is able to secure certain of its true origin.
What is the true origin of the expression “take a powder”?
There are three theory who defend the true origin of this popular expression in an attempt to solve the curious mystery.
The vast majority of the sources opt for a supposed connection with the ancient and widespread custom of sniffing snuff, also known as “snuff”, among the bourgeois classes during the SEVENTEENTH and NINETEENTH centuries.
This powder is aspired by the nasal route, causing some unbearable sneezing. In order to avoid disturbing other people in the room, the gentlemen consumed at the parties and meetings they withdrew to another room with the intention of “pouring some powder to the nose”. At the time, the excuse of absence began to be used also in order to have fast and passionate sexual encounters with the lover of turn. Hence, with the time you end up applying the expression “go take a powder” to refer to these fleeting sexual encounters.
However, not all opt for this theory. The other theory, supported by less people, relates the vulgar expression with the famous liturgical formula “Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris“, which translated would be, “We are dust, from dust we came and in dust we will become”.
Specifically the part “from the dust we come from” gives rise to interpret the dust as a euphemism for the sexual act, since sexual intercourse creates life.
Finally, the third theory, that although it is less plausible, is supported by some compelling arguments that give it some validity. To do this we should go back to the SEVENTEENTH century, where there are accurate documents that set out in detail the use of condoms made from intestine of pig and other animals.
These condoms were softened with warm milk in an attempt to increase the smoothness that the lack of technology provided. After the intercourse, these archaic contraceptive is not thrown, instead it is cleaned with warm water and kept in talcum powder or corn starch to keep them. The fact take the condom out of the box and desempolvarlo could end up degenerating in the expression “take a powder”.
And you, what theory you agree?