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10 comments on this post.
  1. Victoria:

    Just putting down a marker that this sense of ‘pocketbook’ exists only west of the Atlantic. Over here in the UK, if a woman in a club or bar cried ‘I’ve lost my pocketbook! Can anybody find it?’ everybody would start looking for a notepad, Filofax, pocket diary, or something like that. We don’t associate the word with purses at all, let alone handbags.

  2. Deborah:

    My grandmother came from Norway and she always referred to her purse as her pocketbook. It was usually about 14 inches long, flat and black. As a child in the 1950s I was mystified .

  3. Dan S.:

    My mother still calls her purse her pocketbook. Yeah, it confused me too as a child, especially since we had a number of paperback books that were clearly labeled with the name “Pocket Books”. But if my mother spoke about her pocketbook, she certainly didn’t mean one of those.

  4. Janet M.:

    I always liked the idea of the reticule, and the word’s connection with Roman gladiators!

  5. Harriet Baber:

    Is it regional? I picked up at other sites that in Philly environs this item was always called a ‘pockabook’ and that is exactly what we said in Paterson, NJ. ‘Purse’ was fancy; ‘handbag’ some commercial term, like ‘toilet tissue’. I’m embarassed and don’t know what to call it because afraid ‘pockabook’ is bad regional dialect. Fortunately I don’t carry one.

  6. Beth Vansyckle:

    I found your site looking up any history on a 1950s, 60s, 70s term for insurance salesmen who sold very inexpensive burial policies. They were called burlap pockets. These salesmen sold door to door and collected the nickels, dimes, or quarters weekly.

    Do you know where the term burlap bag in this context came from?


  7. Linda:

    My mother and both my grandmothers used the term “pocketbook”. They live/d in northern New Jersey. One day I asked my grandson if he had seen my pocketbook lying around anywhere and he didn’t know what I was referring to. I switched over to using “purse” many years ago, but sometimes the “pocketbook” slips out!

  8. Julie:

    I love the way language forms little evolutionary branches. This was such an interesting read. In the UK i’ve only recently heard the use of purse to mean handbag/bag, it seems to have re-entered our usage in a limited way via US media. I mostly (only ever until recently) heard purse to refer to the ‘coin purse’, although we don’t use coin purse either, just purse.

  9. Judy:

    I grew up and live in the suburbs of Philly. My 100 year old mother grew up in center city Philadelphia. All generations of women here have always refered to their pocketbooks. If I mix it up and use the word purse, everyone knows that I am referring to my pocketbook.

  10. jerry:

    Men use wallets. Never purses or pocketbooks. Can you imagine asking your grandfather, in his 70s-80’s, “Gramps, can I get a dollar out of your pocketbook for ice cream?” No, you’d ask your grandmother that way.

    How many men go shopping for a pocketbook? Maybe a paperback dime novel, but not to put money and id’s in. Geez. Now I wonder what the Scots who wear kilts (skirts) use…..

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