Google’s guide to renaming your man purse

A new tool from Google makes it easier than ever for nervous male carriers of handbags to decide what they can safely call their man purse. The tool is called Google Trends, and it allows you to compare the popularity of various search terms over the last few years.

How is this useful to the pursed or soon-to-be-pursed population? Well, let’s start with the eternal battle among man-purse wearers: should we call it a man purse or a murse?

Unfortunately, Google Trends doesn’t give us a helpful answer: both terms are searched so infrequently, it seems, that they won’t even bother giving us any data. So let’s throw in another term: man bag, man purse, or murse?

Google Trends Graph of man bag, man purse, murse

And right away, we see that far more people are searching the internets for a man bag than for either of our other fancy terms. We also note the spike in man-bag interest around last year’s holiday season. We wonder if this might have been a result of the Great Man Bag Fashion Push of 2005, and also what it might portend for holiday man-bag sales in the coming year — that is, if the trend lasts that long.

But is man bag really the most popular name for a man’s handbag? Continue reading and we’ll see . . .

Let’s try a few other male-only names from our list of common euphemisms: man bag, man sack, man pack:

Google Trends Graph of man bag, man sack, man pack

The results are very interesting. Man sack appears to have developed only a short vertical stub in mid-2005 — in a shape rather complementary to — but also at odds with — the anatomical reference implied by its name. But man pack appears to have a slight edge in popularity over man bag (except during the brief fashion renaissance last year, of course). Why is this? Separate searches for the two terms reveal that they are popular in different regions. The highest concentration of interest in both terms comes from the United Kingdom, but man pack is a far more familiar term to people in Germany and Sweden, for example, while man bag appears to be the term of choice in the United States and the U.K.

In Edinburgh, which we can safely call the man-bag capital of the (English-speaking, Google-searching) world, the term man pack is seemingly unknown — this seems also the case in Sheffield and Boston. Montreal, however, is clearly the leader of the man pack pack. We wonder what kind of response we’d get if we asked a Montreal resident what he thought of our man bags.

Does it make sense, then, to call your bag a man bag or a man pack depending on where you live? Before deciding, perhaps we should compare these terms to other euphemisms:

Commuter bag, bailout bag, European carryall, field bag, cafe bag, hip bag, overnighter, possibles bag, patrol case, and sash with pouch don’t even show up on the graph when we compare them to man bag or man pack. (The term carry all on its own does appear popular in the Philippines, but we imagine this might be a result of non-man-purse-related searches.) Go bag shows up, but it’s considerably less popular than man bag.

Google Trends Graph of fanny pack, man bag

There appears to be a slight overall decline in fanny pack searches over the last several years, but the fact that the number of searches is still comparable to those for man bags should be fair enough warning that Google Trends cannot be relied upon for fashion advice.

Google Trends Graph of bookbag, man bag, man pack

Bookbag was more popular than man bag and man pack briefly last fall (back-to-school season, for much of the world), but it hasn’t been a contender since.

Google Trends Graph of satchel, valise, shoulder bag, man bag, man pack

Shoulder bag, though, appears to be a more popular search term than man bag or man pack. And since mid-2004, there’s been even more interest in valises. But not enough to beat the hunt for satchels.

Google Trends Graph of messenger bag, courier bag, man bag, man pack

Shockingly, courier bag does not even show up on a graph next to man bag or man pack. But messenger bag trumps any term we’ve mentioned so far.

So that’s it: Call your man purse a messenger bag and you’ll fit in with the crowd. And we should use the term messenger bag more often, so Googlers will find this site when they do searches for messenger bags, like this, see: messenger bag.


Well, not exactly. There are still a few terms left we haven’t yet tried. And here’s a quick, sobering reality check: with the exception of some seasonal blips, there’s not much more Googling interest in messenger bags than there is in paper bags:

Google Trends Graph of messenger bag, paper bag

But this isn’t a blog about groceries. (We do, however, cover the occasional lunch box.) Attache beats messenger bag pretty handily, though we imagine there’s a fair number of Googlers whose searches for diplomats are muddying up those numbers. If we instead try attache case, we get a squiggly line that lies far below that of man bag.

Google Trends Graph of man bag, attache case

A fair number of other terms have similar problems. Numbers for clutch and carry on searches can’t be counted on, since there are too many alternate meanings — but appending “bag” to the end of either term results in a far lower grade. The same might be said for tote, but when we change the search to tote bag, we get results comparable to messenger bag.

Google Trends Graph of tote bag, messenger bag

Now it’s down to the finals. Still to test: briefcase and backpack. And the winner is . . .

Google Trends Graph of backpack, briefcase, messenger bag

Not even close. Briefcase beats messenger bag, but backpack whips them both. How can this be? Should we be changing this website’s tag line?

How’s this sound? The Satchel Pages: Home of backpacks and other man purses. And should you be calling your man bag a backpack, even if it never touches your back? Who knew there were so many hikers?

Google Trends Graph of backpack, purse, messenger bag

We’re not entirely sold on this backpack thing quite yet. There seem to be roughly as many searches for backpack as for purse (which is considerably more than the number for messenger bag). Google Trends reports more news references for purses. Purses are more popular in December, while backpacks peak in August. In the struggle between these two search terms we see great dualities: Rural vs. urban. Summer vs. winter. Back vs. shoulder. How about Man vs. woman?

Maybe. For all we new Google Trends junkies know, a healthy portion of the male population has recently taken to spending time looking online for . . . a purse. A purse that they can call a purse.

There can be safety in popular names. But just because throngs of men are Googling backpack doesn’t mean they aren’t lusting in their hearts for man purses. Maybe they’d like the functionality of a man purse, but the safety of being able to call their bag a backpack.

It’s that first-mover problem: A lot of men want to carry a handbag, and be free to call it whatever they want. But it can get rough being the first guy on your block with a purse. So . . . call it a backpackif anybody asks.

2 Responses to “Google’s guide to renaming your man purse”

  1. What to call your man purse so it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary - The Satchel Pages: Home of the Man Purse Says:

    [...] « Google’s guide to renaming your man purse [...]

  2. May is for man purse - The Satchel Pages: Home of the Man Purse Says:

    [...] The most popular names for your man bag, according to Google. [...]

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