Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I read this in an Agatha Christie novel from 1965:

He certainly left here on Thursday evening carrying his BEA bag.

What is a BEA bag? Is it a brand or a specific type of bag? Googling doesn't yield very specific results.

share|improve this question
    
Karin, in that era it was quite trendy to use an airline bag (originally they were given away freely by the various airlines of the day), as your hand bag or perhaps sports bag. So at that time if you said "a TWA Bag" "a BOAC bag" "a JAL bag" or the like, what it meant was one of those particularly-sized zip-bags with a logo on it. (In other words, any phrase "airline-name bag" was understood to mean "airline bag".) By way of example, in Hong Kong in that era, for schoolchildren, the only bag to use as a schoolbag was an airline bag. Airline bags of that era are now collectible. –  Joe Blow Jul 31 '11 at 17:50

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

That BEA is capitalised suggests an abbreviation, indicating a BEA bag is a bag of or from BEA.

It's not a type of bag more a branded bag; a Starbucks bag is a bag from Starbucks not a bag of the Starbucks type.

BEA can stand for British European Airways, "a British airline which existed from 1946 until 1974"1.

The period of operation of the airline fits the year of publication of the novel. That the airline was British fits with Christie being British and that the airline was "the largest domestic airline within the United Kingdom"1 supports the notion that Christie and the intended audience of the novel would have been aware of what BEA at the time was.

Context suggests Christie refers to a bag supplied by British Europeans Airlines, possibly sold to or offered to passengers.

BEA airline bag

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_European_Airways

share|improve this answer
3  
+1. Impeccable. –  Cerberus Jul 30 '11 at 20:48
    
Thank you! Most helpful –  Karin Jul 30 '11 at 21:01
    
Those of use with BOAC bags regarded those with BEA bags as rather less adventurous or classy. –  Henry Jul 31 '11 at 1:03
1  
Back in the days when air travel was an elegant pleasure rather than slightly preferable to be dragged behind a horse - the airlines gave these bags to customers so you could advertise the ariline and that you were a stylish international jet-setter –  mgb Jul 31 '11 at 1:21

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.