“Hey, smart guy. Why don’t you take a powder and leave the adults alone?”
So why does “take a powder” mean to leave? No one knows! Yes, it’s going to be one of those entries in which I claim to answer a burning questions (for no one) but actually just shrug my shoulders and list a bunch of theories. Ladies’ choice!
Take a powder could come from the routine exclamation from doctors to patients—take a laxative powder for what ails you. Maybe! Or it could be a shortened version of, “I’m going to the powder room to powder my nose.”
In either case, it definitely originated in the 1920s and means to make a hurried—but discreet!—exit.