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Purse, Bag, Pocket: What to call it?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Rosemary Tea, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    This is for a story set in an alternate world with a slight medieval feel, in a creative anachronisms sense. I'm not going for historical accuracy at all, but I am trying to avoid making the setting feel too modern. That means not using words that will jar the reader into the 21st century. So, there's no refrigerator in the house, although there is a cold cellar where food is stored. Characters may wear tunics or dresses, but at least as often they wear kirtles--essentially the same thing, but using that word helps create the feel of a different world.

    I'm stumbling over what to call this item: it's really the same thing as a messenger bag, and in the scene I just wrote, a male character is carrying it. (I called it his bag for now, but I'm not entirely satisfied.) "Messenger bag" sounds too modern. In a medieval setting, it would have been called a purse or a wallet. But using "wallet" today will make the reader think of a billfold, which is not the same thing at all. And while a medieval purse was gender neutral, in our own time, saying "purse" sounds feminine. The item I'm thinking of is also gender neutral, could just as easily be carried by a man or a woman, but I need to use a term for it that will convey that to the modern reader.

    Medieval folks might also have called that a pocket, but in my story, people have pockets in their clothes, just like they do now (creative anachronism!). So calling a bag a pocket is out.

    Suggestions?
     
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  2. Mad Swede

    Mad Swede Sage

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    Pouch, small pack or wallet. Maybe satchel. I use both wallet and purse as appropriate when I'm writing, and then use the contents to illustrate that I'm not using the terms in their modern meaning.
     
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  3. A Pineapple

    A Pineapple Scribe

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    The word that first jumps to mind is satchel, but thesaurus.com is always a great friend. How about haversack?
     
  4. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    I just plugged in "satchel." Works better than "bag" or "messenger bag." To me, that word has a somewhat exotic feel, which is especially good for the story I'm writing, but perhaps that's just because I'm American? What I've gathered from reading is that the British would use satchel to mean a school bag, but I've only ever encountered that word in books.
     
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  5. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Hmmm.... sometimes simple is best so satchel or bag gets my vote.
     
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  6. LAG

    LAG Minstrel

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    Satchel came to mind.
     
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  7. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    What's wrong with purse? Anyone can use a purse. Although satchel feels more medieval to me.
     
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  8. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Sure, anyone can use a purse, but what that word brings to mind for a contemporary reader is the thing women carry, mainly to hold money (and keys, phone, etc.). It's so gendered that versions intended for men get called "man purse."

    Really, what this character has is a satchel, in both the modern and the archaic sense. What he has in it probably wouldn't fit in a modern purse. He isn't just carrying money, he has some items that he has to deliver to someone, which are small enough to carry in a bag but large enough, and there are enough of them, that it would have to be messenger bag size.
     
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  9. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    Ah, I see. Honestly, I don't care. Men can have purses, women can have beards, nonbinary people can have cheeseburgers, whatever.
    Purses are more modern sounding too.
     
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  10. Don Coyote

    Don Coyote Scribe

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    Any reader worth their salt knows what a cutpurse is and what a purse is. No one reading about Robin Hood lifting a bishop's purse in Sherwood Forest is going to think it's a woman's purse. If they do, they won't for long. Use the word "purse" in the appropriate setting and readers will know what you mean.

    In this case, the bag as described by Rosemary Tea is definitely a satchel.
     
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  11. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Bag Infographic.png
    Just sharing a little bit of info showing how wide and varied this sliver of the fashion world is. You can have a man carry a purse in a medieval-esque setting, especially if you get more specific and call it a "coin purse" which is a much smaller variation on the pouch. It's held onto the belt like a pouch with drawstrings and is where we get the phrase "cut purse." It has also, until very recent times, been a unisex term.
     
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  12. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    It still is! I cannot stress this enough! Anyone can use a purse, and anyone an be a nurse! Purse is still unisex! Are you going to say that only girls can wear pink, too? Or that only boys can have beards? Or that only girls can wear skirts? A purse is a purse, regardless of who owns it.
     
  13. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    And makeup is also unisex. I know that, you know what, but language and how its used don't know that. It's why the terms can be considered gendered. Because of how it's used. Language, English especially, is always changing just like any other living system. And English is also a potent tool and weapon for world domination.
     
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  14. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Ah, but are you one to get run over by the English language or are you one to grab it by the horns and steer it right into your enemy? After all, how many words did Shakespeare coin that now serve as part of our everyday language?
     
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  15. Gwynndamere

    Gwynndamere Dreamer

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    I too like satchel, or haversack.
     
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  16. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    Just sayin'.
    90391663_510320032963652_6336088303707619328_n.jpg
     
  17. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Hey... some of us write entirely BECAUSE of quarantine! :joyful:
     

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