Fanny pack or bum bag?

by Anna Lamont


Now I thought that bum bags (fanny packs) had gone out with the Ark, but lately I’ve seen all manner of reference to them by perturbed Americans who have come to realise that in Britian, ‘fanny pack’ is not something to be said in public (and if said in polite company may cause an elderly aunt to faint quite away).

Relax, dearest cousins. If you wish to wear one whilst in Blighty, just call it a bag. “Where’s the camera, dear?” “It’s here, dear, in my bag”. There! Problem solved. Right, now we can all relax.

But the subject of stowage is fraught with translation problems, so here’s a guide in case things get a tad confusing:

Handbag – that’s your purse. Whether clutch, Kelly or shoulder-strap, teensy-weensy or big enough for the kitchen sink, it’s a ‘handbag’. (see The Importance of Being Ernest – “a HANDBAG??”).

Manbag – a new term for modern types, that’s his handbag. But never EVER called a handbag. EVER. Usually a ‘monosac’, ‘record bag’ (younger chap) or a European style small zip-bag with wrist strap (older, usually retired chap).

Purse – that’s a ladies wallet, usually with a coin compartment.

Wallet – A man’s wallet, usually with no coin compartment; hence my daughter making a fortune out of picking up coins which have fallen from her father’s trouser pocket and banking them in her ’spotty dog’ moneybox.

Placky bag – A thin plastic (usually grocery store) bag (may also be called a ‘plaggy bag’ in some regions). Many shops now don’t give out bags for free in the name of saving the environment, so we all carry a ‘placky bag’ in our handbags for our purchases. Complete posers will ensure it’s a ‘Mulberry’ bag and I freely admit to once stuffing in an ‘LK Bennett’ bag, but really, Tesco’s bags should be good enough for anyone. Are we being green or trying to preen? Hmmm?

Luggage – Baggage, but not the emotional kind. Usually more, well, suitcasey.

Car boot – trunk. Although, should you arrive at your hotel and ask the porter (bellboy) to retrieve your luggage from the trunk, fear not; he will perfectly understand and will not be looking for your pet elephant.

Trunk – A large chest. No!!! Not THAT kind of large chest! Shame on you.

Old bag – A Chav’s wife or mother.

Granny bag – A wheeled shopping bag, usually with a steel frame and made from colourful checked (plaid) fabric, this evil weapon of mass destruction can mow down a dozen innocent shoppers in seconds when wielded by a mean, bargain hunting granny in a crowded market-place.

Trug – A very shallow, flat-bottomed basket made from flat strips of woven wood for collecting freshly cut flowers or vegetables from one’s garden. Its shape is similar to an old American grape basket, with a generous handle to carry the basket over the crook of one’s arm.

There! So hopefully on your next visit to Blighty you’ll be faux-pas free, know your trunk from your trunk, your wallet from your wallet and your purse from your handbag (although many Brits don’t even know their arse from their elbow).

Originally published at The Anglofile where Anna blogs on being British, Englishness, and of course, the English language.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Faz says:

    It would be tough to pick out one fav sentence in your chest-full (the piratey treasures kind) of gems here. But “Luggage – Baggage, but not the emotional kind. Usually more, well, suitcasey.” will keep me chuckling the whole weekend at least. Thanks for this post! 🙂



  2. Margaret says:

    Great! Thanks for clearing that up… although it would be very hard for me to call my purse a handbag!
    How about a backpack… same name for that? (oh wait, isn’t that a rucksack in Brit-speak?)


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