The Onion on U.K. slang

Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Tue Nov 20 10:07:29 UTC 2007

Following my post yesterday, I had a message from Sandy Malcolm, who
pointed out that the reference to handbags was to the fuller phrase
"handbags at dawn" (or "handbags at ten paces") for a minor or catty
squabble. It is often said to be from football, but it was was more
probably based on the sexist joke by the conservative MP Julian Critchley
in the 1980s that Mrs Thatcher could never see an institution without
wanting to hit it with her handbag, or the variation that she kept her
ministers in line in the same way. Mr Malcolm also noted that "eppy" is
more likely to refer to an epileptic fit than an episode.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: wordseditor at

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