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1980s UK.[1] Jocular derivation of pistols at dawn, replacing pistols with handbags, referring to women hitting each other with handbags during a catfight. The phrase originated in football, and was possibly influenced by good handbagging (a verbal dressing down), in reference to the then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; and the 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.[1]


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handbags at dawn (uncountable)

  1. (Britain, humorous, idiomatic) A catty squabble.
  2. (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.

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Handbags at ten paces” in Gary Martin, The Phrase Finder, 1997–, retrieved 26 February 2017.