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:
/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.