Fanny pack or bum bag?


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).



Filed under Britishness, English Language, translation

5 responses to “Fanny pack or bum bag?

  1. Anna,

    The bum bag has now become passe in my region of the country. I travel often to Manhattan and I wouldn’t be caught dead with one around my waist- I might as well have a siren and a flashing light above my head. A friend of mine travelled to London two years ago and I asked her if she carried a money belt or bum bag and she laughed out loud. “No way!” she said. She carried her handbag. I think it has become a generational thing here being used by mostly older Americans who were around when it became popular. I don’t think young people would be caught dead wearing one.

    In the south, were I was born, we called purses or handbags “pocketbooks”. Now don’t ask me where that came from, but it is still used by certain parts of the country. Where I am it is always referred to as a “purse” or “handbag”. And yes, the wallet is the wallet whether it belongs to a male or female.

    I remember having to pay for plastic bags in the supermarkets in England and this was the 1980’s so we are way behind on this issue. I didn’t, however, know that there was an official name for them. Do people also carry cotton bags which are reusable? That is a trend that is starting to take off here with most stores selling their version for as low as 99 cents. I was considering packing a couple for my journey this summer since we will have access to a kitchen and need to shop for foodstuffs.

    • Yes, there are lots of variations for carrying groceries, from cotton or jute bags to thick plastic bags (often called ‘bags for life’). And I now get my groceries delivered from Ocado, which (so they tell me) is greener than lots of people using their cars. “Placky bag” is not an official name for thin grocery bags; it’s just English slang.

  2. Sorry, I wrote this post in haste so let me clarify:

    I was born in WV but now live in the northeast where we call them “handbags”.

    My journey next summer is to England and Scotland.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your blogpost, keep up making such interesting stuff!

  4. Great post. I have to confess though that I’ve never heard the term “Placky bag” before and I’ve been living in England for 23 years. Learn something new everyday! LOL

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