1980s UK. Jocular derivation of pistols at dawn, replacing “pistols” with “handbags”, referring to women hitting each other with handbags during a catfight. Originated in football, possibly influenced by good handbagging (“verbal dressing down”), in reference to then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; and Monty Python skit “The Batley Townswomens' Guild presents the Battle of Pearl Harbor” (season 1, episode 11. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes to the Bathroom, December 1969), in which the actors flail at each other with handbags.
- (UK, humorous, idiomatic) A catty squabble.
- (New Zealand, informal) Competitors on a sporting field (often in a rugby game) getting into a fight - looking threatening but not really doing any damage.