Here is a question and an answer from a list of questions on Cuba:

Q. What is a "java" bag?

A. "Java" is the Cuban word for bag. Because of the shortage and high cost of personal hygiene articles, the State provides all employees in the public service sector with a free bag of toiletries every month. This bag usually contains deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, razors, etc.

My questions here are the following: Does this expression exist in American English (perhaps as an idiom)? If yes, how and when is it used?

  • 4
    I don't have an authoritative answer, but I'm an American living in Miami, and I've never heard this before, even idiomatically. I would probably call such a bag of toiletries a Dopp kit.
    – Cameron
    Jul 8, 2012 at 13:01
  • Why is it not authoritative? If you are a native speaker of American English living in Miami, then your answer counts as the very authoritative one. At least now I know from your answer that "Java Bag" is not a common expression in American English spoken in Miami, and it is very possible that it doesn't exist at all. In fact, I more interested in knowing whether it's common or not, rather than whether it exists as a kind of very rare saying. You should re-post your comment as a question!
    – brilliant
    Jul 8, 2012 at 13:29
  • @brilliant: Just because someone has never heard an expression before, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. When anyone bases a comment or answer purely on prior experience, without doing any additional research, it's not a bad idea to add a "this is not an authoritative answer" caveat. Being in Miami bolsters Cameron's credibility, but it doesn't eliminate the possibility that the term is rare, but in use nonetheless.
    – J.R.
    Jul 8, 2012 at 18:14
  • And furthermore, if a Cuban expression has moved to the US, Miami would probably be one of the most likely places to hear it.
    – GEdgar
    Jul 8, 2012 at 19:23
  • @J.R. - "Just because someone has never heard an expression before, doesn't mean it doesn't exist" - And where on earth did I say "Well, then it doesn't exist then"? Read my comment one more time. In response to Cameron's answer I said, "At least now I know from your answer that "Java Bag" is not a common expression in American English spoken in Miami"
    – brilliant
    Jul 9, 2012 at 0:49

3 Answers 3


Java bag does not exist in American English. Incidentally, most of us think of coffee, programming languages, and the island of Indonesia when we see or hear the word java.

As Cameron comments, we do have Dopp kit, but they aren't issued by the government.

A Dopp kit is a small toilet bag, made of leather, vinyl, or cloth, that is used for storing men's grooming tools for travel. Common items kept in a Dopp kit are deodorant, a razor, shaving cream, comb, shampoo, nail clippers, scissors, toothbrush, toothpaste, and cologne. The name derives from early 20th century leather craftsman Charles Doppelt, a German immigrant to the United States, who invented his toiletry case in 1919.

  • 1
    I concur with the ninja. On hearing the term java bag, I'd assume it referred to either the burlap bags used to transport coffee beans, or else some kind of handbag crafted out of that material.
    – J.R.
    Jul 8, 2012 at 18:34

The word "java" pronounced "ha'va" does not have anything to do with java or coffee or toiletries. It is a common word used to refer to any shopping bag with handles. I am Cuban and the word was used Pre-Castro so it doesn't have any government issue reference at all.


Swag is a term with many diverse definitions (often obscene -- check it out in Urban Dictionary), but one popular slang meaning is apparently derived from one of the formal defintions: spoils, profits.

This meaning is applied to stuff (often in a "swag bag") one is given for free at a party or for, eg, attending a sales pitch. May also be given by an employer or salesman as a Christmas gift. This could (depending on the event) be candies, little trinkets, pens & pencils (with the provider's logo), bits of costume jewelry, or more expensive items. (My understanding is that attendees at the Academy Awards are given swag bags worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars.)

Correction: The Academy Awards swag bag is given to nominees and is worth $160,000.

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