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Take a Word.... Bag: Etymology, Sayings, Examples and a Poem

Updated on November 18, 2020
annart profile image

Ann likes to research the history of words, to experiment with them and to encourage others to use fresh words and idioms.

Etymology of 'bag' say that from around the year 1200, bagge, from Old Norse baggi or a similar Scandinavian source, meaning bag, bundle, pack, bale, hay bale, or mental burden.

The last meaning above can be used in phrases like, ‘She [or he] came with a lot of baggage’, referring to either that she had many problems or worries caused by her past, or that he has children to bring to a relationship - or maybe both!

Edible Bag!

Birthday Cake Bag
Birthday Cake Bag | Source

Words, words, words

I’ve had encouragement from a few hubbers (my favourites, naturally) to continue this series. As I love to play with words, to explore meanings and nuances, there are indeed a few more ‘Take a Word’s in the pipeline.

It's always a challenge to use alternative phraseology which can make our writing more colourful, more arresting, more 'alive'.

As before, see what you can come up with before you read on. How many idioms or sayings do you know which include this word?

Today's Selection

Several phrases using ‘bag’ refer to women! Can you have a bag man? Never heard of one but not to be sexist we have to allow them to exist.

Many of these sayings are obviously to do with the shape and purpose of a bag. Some are aligned to claiming or grabbing and subsequently putting into a bag.

Let’s explore these sayings, by way of a little poetry.

The Bag Lady

The old bag lady slumped on the seat,

shoes down at heel, her life round her feet,

observed the old man across the way,

a sad bag of bones who was there every day.

Tattered and weathered, years-old baggy clothes,

she missed not a thing that happened to those

who frequented the park where a mixed bag of folks

got on with their lives, the girls and the blokes.

She knew many secrets of those who passed by.

She knew why the sad man had bags ‘neath his eyes.

This man was a rich one, turned tramp on the streets

because he had lost a great love through bad deeds.

A Seat in the Park

Park bench - Park bed
Park bench - Park bed | Source

He’d had bags of charm, bags of style, blue eyes bright,

but a liking for whiskey had brought on his plight.

His love, after trying to get through the days,

putting up with his moods, his philandering ways,

had finally enough of his sad bag of tricks,

his endless excuses, his promise to fix

the way of life he’d come to pursue,

she left, bag and baggage, to start life anew.

“Who’s that old bag?” she heard someone say,

“Oh she’s just the bag lady, here every day.”

Was that all she was, just a down-trodden hag?

Well, maybe ‘twas time to let the cat out the bag.

She winced as she pushed herself up from the bench,

Time hadn’t softened the pain of the wrench

of when she’d departed. Had he changed his bag,

forsaken the drink, become less of a drag?

Had life been a pain, is that why he sat there,

watching, like her, as time passed, as he stared?

He saw her approach, knew her not, did not care.

Her words, “Bags-I choose where we eat… let’s see, there!”

Surprise in his eyes, a small spark of doubt,

who was this, was she actually asking him out?

Then, “You don’t know me, do you, my old love?”

He froze, searched her eyes, as she gazed from above.

The love of his life had pulled out of the bag

a chance to make up for the grief, for that tag

as a no-good playboy who drank life away,

a chance to bag up all his past on that day.

They walked round the streets, arm in arm, talking fast,

aware they had much to catch up on, the past.

Hungry, they managed some doggy-bag scraps

from kind restaurant owners who knew both these ‘chaps’.

The two reunited had bags to discuss,

so sat in the park, no bad words, no fuss.

Each day from then on you could see them together,

a bag of life each, for ever and ever.

Other phrases and explanations

bag it up - put the goods in a bag

bag someone - arrest somebody

bagged it - stole it

what’s your bag? - area of expertise, interest, category

wind-bag, gas bag - someone who is full of hot air i.e. nothing to say but talks a lot

couldn’t punch his way out of a paper bag - has no strength or no intelligence to find a way out of an awkward situation

mixed bag - some good, some not so good

pull it out of the bag - do something unexpected to save the day

Pretty or Practical?

Clutch bags; blue velvet, satin & red leather
Clutch bags; blue velvet, satin & red leather | Source
Tan leather shoulder bag
Tan leather shoulder bag | Source

Bags - hand, clutch, shoulder

Women are known to like handbags, probably a close second to shoes! That’s not to say that men don’t have handbags, often, it seems, for the purpose of carrying their money as an alternative to a wallet.

A handbag is self-explanatory but there are all sorts of other bags.

You fellas will have to excuse me if I go off on a ‘girl’ thing here. We can never have enough bags, the more shapes and colours and fabrics and designs and….., the better.

Out for the evening, we have our model clutching a … yep, you got it, a clutch bag; small, dainty, sparkling and of a cloth to suggest taste or wealth or style, or maybe all three.

Off for a shopping spree? Well, don’t forget the shoulder bag, leaving your hands free to go through the clothes rails, to carry all the garments you can buy in a day and to wear across you in case of crowds where those who wish to alleviate you of your purchases may lurk. Should you be looking for a bargain, you might like to know that a Tom Ford shoulder bag could be yours for a mere £2840.00 - I’ll have two!

How Deep can you Go?

Green canvas Tote Bag
Green canvas Tote Bag | Source
Beach Bag - pretty, practical & packed with all you need for the sun
Beach Bag - pretty, practical & packed with all you need for the sun | Source

More bags - tote, beach, carpet, carrier

If you carry everything but the kitchen sink with you, then opt for a tote bag. Yours truly has one, about the largest bag you can have without it being called a case. Deep down inside you can rummage around like Mary Poppins and find all sorts of things you didn’t know you had. Briefly it’s a large shopping bag, usually open at the top, with strong rounded handles (can just about be carried over the shoulder).

The word ‘tote’ goes back to the 17th century and means ‘to carry’. You can buy a chic black ‘Mulberry’ tote bag for £495. Cheap as chips!

Then there's the old-fashioned carpet bag, a large travelling bag made of... you guessed it... carpet. Mary Poppins had a fantastic one which apparently had the dimensions of the Tardis.

Getting away from shopping for just a few minutes, what do you need to take your towel, sun cream, hat, sun glasses, beach mat, picnic and maybe the baby? Yes of course, a beach bag, closely resembling a tote bag but probably more garish and made of more robust materials.

Back to shopping - well I did say it was just a few minutes - we have the good old basic carrier bag, made of plastic, usually from a supermarket with their logo printed on it.

The larger black plastic model can be used for holding rubbish in your bin (trash can for those over the pond), but make sure you have a strong one that the seagulls or foxes can’t pull apart should they manage to flip their lids (of the bins, not the animals).

I'll leave you with....

If you want to bag it up, put it in your bag of tricks and go off, bag and baggage, to pastures new, don’t forget to bag a seat on the train or you might find someone else has it in the bag already.

© 2015 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Mel. Bag of bones was in fact in the first verse but it's easy to overlook such things when you're bombarded with all these phrases!

      I have left out quite a few and I wonder sometimes whether I should add those which other hubbers point out to me; however, I leave it for others to pick up and bask in their own glory!

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving your comment. I always appreciate your support.


    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      5 years ago from San Diego California

      I don't think I heard you say "Bag of Bones." Over here we might refer to a skinny stray dog or a particularly frazzled, emaciated human being as an "old bag of bones." I really loved your sweet poem, and I can see it took you a lot of work to put it together, researching these various idioms. Great hub!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Audrey! Coming from a poet such as you, that is a huge compliment. Glad you like it.


    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      5 years ago from California

      I loved your poem Ann! You got it in the "bag"!--sorry, just couldn't resist

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Hi Eric! Interesting regarding the bagman - never heard of either meaning. Thanks for your encouragement regarding the series and I'm pleased you liked the poem.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      mckbirdbks: Thank you for your kind comment. It was fun to do.


    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Anne this is wonderful. I just love how we use words. This series just must be continued - I demand it! It's success is in the bag. My recollection was that here in the US a bagman was a corrupt gangster type that delivered or collected the dirty money, especially for bribes. And for some foolish reason I thought a bagman over there was a private cop. Thanks for such a lovely poem also, I really liked it.

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      This is creative, insightful and fun. What an undertaking. Nicely done.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      B.Leekley: There you go then, a bag man! Seriously, thank you for reading and I'm glad you enjoyed this.


    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      5 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Ann, this hub is clever and delightful.

      I happen at the moment to have 5 bags within arms' reach of where I am sitting at my computer, each a different type.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Jo, good to see you and I appreciate your kind words, votes and sharing. Glad you like this.

      I'm fine thanks; not very warm but it's getting a little better! Hope August gets back to the seasonal norm soon or I'm emigrating! Hope things are good for you too


    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Ann, I'm glad I managed to bag this little beauty. Up and sharing. Who would have thought it, a little word like 'bag' could be so versitile. Loved the poem and hub, skilful, amusing and cleverly done. Hope you're having a wonderful day. My best to you.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks Nadine; good to see you. It's amazing what 'pings' into the brain when you start thinking about a word. Trouble is, I keep missing some but then others put me straight which is great! Glad you like the story.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Hi Vellur! Thank you for your kind words and I'm so glad you liked this one.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Alicia: Thank you for the kind words. I have a few more in the pipeline so look forward to seeing you.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Flourish. I missed that one didn't I? I love that expression too!

      Glad you liked this and thanks for the visit.


    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What an enjoyable read Ann. I loved your poem. It's so read like a story with a very good ending. It's true that we often use the expression: She ( or he) has a lot of baggage, or.. she looks like she has miles on the clock.

      Amazing to have written a whole hub on the commodity around bags! Well done!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      5 years ago from Dubai

      Enjoyed reading today's selection! Great read and learned a lot. Looking forward to reading more of this series. Great hub, voted up.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very enjoyable hub, Ann. I loved the poem! I'll be reading more in the series.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      When it comes to directions I can barely find my way out of a paper bag. Once again, such variety! You're right about the sexism with not referring to mm as bags. Hmmm.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much, Dora, for your lovely comment. I'm pleased you like the poem.


    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for this extensive exploration of the word. Good and interesting information. The poem is worth a stand-alone applause. Well done!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Hi John! I forgot about 'computer bag'; of course, every man has one of those (actually, so do I)!

      Praise from you regarding a poem is extra special for me because you are so good at poetry. Thank you. I do find it difficult to make it flow when I have to get these idioms in - not easy to avoid it sounding stilted and contrived, so I'm glad it worked for you!

      My respect to your wife - she's obviously a girl after my own heart.

      Ann :)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Jo, for your lovely words, the kind thoughts and the votes.

      The cake was one of my better ones; I'm not a great cook and my icing usually takes on the guise of a monster but this time it worked! Chocolate inside too!

      Hugs to you ((((Jo))))


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      What a wonderful hub Ann. Hard to believe you could write such an interesting hub about bags :) I adored the poem, it was a great tale with so many different uses of the word "bag" throughout. I admit to having a 'man bag', a computer bag and an overnight bag. My wife has so many handbags etc....if I said 50 I wouldn't be exaggerating. She even makes them. Well done, now I have to check out others in this series I missed.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      5 years ago

      This was a really awesome and yummy read! The cake looks so good!

      What a neat creative concept of "Take a Word". I am sending out good thoughts and in prayer for your blessings every day! :-)

      Up= Beautiful, awesome, interesting....shared too. Hugs!!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Mary. You're the only woman I know of who has only three bags! I daren't let you look in my wardrobe!

      It's only a guess but maybe 'poke' comes from having to poke around in your bag to find things - back to Mary Poppins again!

      I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to read and comment.


    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      5 years ago from Florida

      This was such fun to read! I used to have at least 50 bags when I was in the work world; had to have a different one for each outfit.

      Now that I have downsized, I only have three bags!

      The old country folks call a bag a "poke". I never knew why!!

      Voted Up, etc. and shared.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Frank, for your kind words and votes.


    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      5 years ago from Shelton

      I take a word.. bag.. and felt the message Ann.. love the poem would bag it up and take it with me.. voted awesome

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, whonu. I appreciate your comment.


    • whonunuwho profile image


      5 years ago from United States

      Nice work my friend and interesting take on words. whonu

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Maj. I'm very happy that you enjoyed this so much.

      Yes, we used to say 'Bags-I that one', whether it was a cake or a colour or whatever. I think that was probably my earliest use of the 'bag' idiom and that was in Sussex so maybe more widespread than we realised at the time!

      Always good to hear from you.

      Ann :)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Venkatachari M: Thank you for your kind comments and for the votes. Glad you like this one. I had fun writing it.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Hi Jackie! Thanks, I'm glad it made you smile.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Lovely to see you today, Theresa! Thank you for your kind words and I'm glad you like the series. I thought I'd use a poem for a change; some subjects suit poetry better. This one kind of evolved by itself!

      It always brightens my day to have a visit from you, bless you.

      Ann :)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Chris. I'm trying to make it fun and it's certainly fun to write.

      A list of sayings can be very boring and it took me a while to find a format that worked. I was discussing words one day and said, 'Well, take a word, any word, and you can.....' Then thought, 'Aha!, I could use that as a title for a series!' If only it were always that simple!

      Hope you have a great week, Chris.


    • travmaj profile image


      5 years ago from australia

      This was so enjoyable and quite fascinating as the bags rolled out through your poem and in other guises. Who would have thought one word could make such an interesting article. It really started my mind whirling. My remembrance of the bag story is of being a kid and saying, 'Bags me,' - bags me the creamiest cake, bags me the first at hopscotch or whatever we wanted. Saying 'bags me ' sealed the event. This may be a Lancashire saying albeit a very old one! Thank you Ann.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, DJ, for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

      Good to see this this morning.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Hi Ruby! Thanks so much for your comment; glad you enjoyed this. I have fun trying to recall all the phrases and finding out where some of them come from. Not only do we have millions of words but hundreds of ways to use them. How lucky we writers are!

      Good to see you today and thanks for your support.


    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      5 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      It's so wonderful a creation, Ann. Loved the poem much more. You filled so many bags of fun and humour. Thanks for this awesome post. Enjoyed a lot.

      Voted up and awesome. Sharing on G+

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from the beautiful south

      An enjoyable read; thanks for the smiles!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, what another delightful read here, dear Ann! You are indeed a creative soul and I especially love your poem with the surprise twist at the end. I did not see that coming which means it is wonderful.

      I am enjoying this series of yours. Of course you have it in the bag.

      Peace and blessings

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      Ann, As soon as I saw the word, "Bag," I knew this would be a fun hub to read. Loved your poem. I do think this series is effective at causing us to think more deeply about the words we choose in our writing. I can take a simple word like "bag" and use it very creatively. I'll be more aware in the future about the variety of meanings behind simple words. Thanks for the fun read tonight.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 

      5 years ago

      Ann, your poem was a joy to read. I could envision the

      story at it played out before me. The two people had to lose everything

      to find each other.

      A real joy, Ann!


    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I thoroughly enjoyed this. Your narrative poem was sooo good. I love writing a poem in rhyming fashion. I also love bags, all colors and shapes. It's amazing how many ways we use the word bag. Voted up...

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      I'm so pleased you like this series, bill; how great to bring a smile just with the title - that's made me grin! Plus the fact that you are the first here.

      Thank you for letting me know you've posted the book. I will of course let you know as soon as I receive it; much appreciated too. I'm still reading RT and I apologise for taking so long; I keep being interrupted in my reading.

      I don't understand either why some post takes such a long time. We can post a card from France (closer to us than Scotland) and we get home weeks later before it arrives. Great thing, technology!

      Have a great week, bill! Hope the goats give you a minute or two to yourselves.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I started smiling as soon as I saw the title. That's how much I enjoy this series.

      Good evening, Ann! Loved this, of course, but I came to deliver a message: I finally got off my butt and mailed your contest-winning book. They tell me you should receive it in two weeks. If I'm not mistaken, we put a man on the moon faster than that. Go figure!!!!

      I hope you enjoy it. It is my silly book, a complete fantasy farce that was totally enjoyable to write.



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