Having grown up in South Africa, Dave uses a lot of British words and phrases, and some that are uniquely South African. They often provide us with misunderstandings and laughs. I never really thought about the word handbag until Dave said at the market yesterday, "Well, I noticed a handbag at that table so I figured it was taken." North Americans don't really talk about handbags; we talk about purses. But now that I've noticed, I've decided that handbag is a much nicer, much more appropriate term.
I've noticed on the British blogs that there is a lot of interest in shoes and handbags. Personally, I don't really share the interest (I'm more of a serial monogamist when it comes to shoes: I like good-quality, funky shoes but they have to be comfortable, and usually I'll wear one pair for months before a change of season forces me to choose another pair).
I don't really like carrying a purse, never really have. Ok, when I was a little girl, I loved wearing high heels and carrying purses. But during my teens and early twenties I only carried my wallet in my back pocket (aha! Maybe it's because I never wore skirts or dresses then, only jeans and later cords. Handbags or purses are only necessary if you wear skirts and makeup and need more than your wallet with you), then I graduated to a backpack.
My friend Heather gave me a furry purse at my bachelorette party where everyone had to bring something silly for me to wear at the bar. The purse originally carried a little stuffed dog (the ultimate accessory these days I guess) but I removed the dog and it's really been quite functional.
I carry this furry purse more often since having Ezra. It feels liberating on the rare occasions I don't have to carry spare diapers, wipes, something to wipe up spitup, a fresh change of clothes, etc. etc.
Anytime I have carried a purse (if I'm dressed up, the backpack just doesn't feel right), I always referred to it as my bag. A lot of my prejudice against purses has something to do with the name... maybe because purse is what you do with your lips when you're grumpy or taste something sour. Of course it's also what you do when you kiss someone or if you're Marilyn Monroe teaching someone to whistle. But purse really sounds like a grumpy word to me, not a sexy one.
Handbag is so much more precise than bag. If I ask someone to hand me my bag, often they look around for a backpack or grocery bag. Now I will say handbag and hope it spreads like a virus.
I'll be very interested if lynneguist examines the purse/handbag thing. In fact I may need to suggest it to him/her, along with a shameless invitation to read my blog.