The term 'handbags' (in the plural) is a popular expression that has become ingrained in the national psyche of the United Kingdom. It originates from a running gag featured regularly on the comedy TV quiz show Shooting Stars, presented by surreal Northern comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. During the show, the script would call for team captain Mark Lamarr (or another panellist) to utter a distinctly bitter and scathing put-down towards the show's hosts. Vic and Bob would then produce handbags from under their desks, hold them under their chins defensively and let forth a mocking "Eeeew-wooh!", an expression of mock-distress. Cue big laugh.

As a result of repeated exposure to this gag, internet users from the British Isles will often respond to uncalled-for insults on forums, message boards, IRC, etc. with:

*handbags*

Or:

/me raises handbag

Or, with the advent of Google Image Search, by pasting in an image of a handbag or handbags into their response, resulting in the proprietors of online leather goods retailers and other sites with readily-available pictures of handbags ending up with mysteriously high bandwidth bills.

A popular tension-defusing variant, usually used by a third party to the insulter and insultee:

Handbags at (six / ten / twenty) paces?

The hands-under-chin gesture and exclamation of displeasure is occasionally mimed by people in real-life conversation, but carries the inherent risk of making the user look a bit silly.

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