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Wednesday, December 02, 2009
The Satchel Problem
The answer to the question "is a satchel a messenger bag?" turns out to be quite complex.
In the strictest definitions, no. In more common definitions, yes.
The most narrow definition of a satchel is a leather, soft-sided case for books and papers. Often with a strap.
The most narrow definition of a messenger bag is a custom-formed bag that curves against the upper back, with a single strap that runs across the chest.
These are distinguished from a briefcase (a hard-sided case that never has a strap) and a backpack (a bag with two straps that hangs against the centre of your back).
However, in common use "satchel" encompasses many satchel-like bags, and messenger bag now includes almost any bag with a strap that hangs at your side that is not a purse.
In this loose definition, some satchels are messenger bags.
There is not actually a commonly-used English word for non-satchel, non-messenger bags that have a strap and hang at the side, although I would argue for clarity purposes there really should be. MEC calls them generically "shoulder bags", which I suppose is fair enough although in general use easily confused with purse. They call many of them "carryalls" as well, another term that is sadly lacking in a clear definition.