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What Does "Bag and Baggage" Mean?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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"Bag and baggage" is an idiom that relates to the amount of possessions that people manage to take along wherever they go. This particular English saying is found in many works of 19th century literature and continued to be used commonly well into the 20th century. Even today, the term tends to conjure up images of someone who tends to travel with a lot of baggage, leaving very little if anything behind.

In a more literal application, "bag and baggage" can often refer to the amount of luggage that an individual takes along when going on a trip. Typically, a person who travels with an exorbitant amount of suitcases, steamer trunks and other containers does so in order to be prepared for any type of contingency. When a traveler completes a journey and reaches the point of destination, the person is likely to remark that he or she has arrived, bag and baggage in hand, meaning that both the person and a significant amount of personal possessions have also arrived. Often, the phrase used in this setting is meant to imply a sense of looking forward to having some fun, since the visitor is prepared for just about anything to happen.

The saying may also refer to a psychological state as well as a material one. In this type of bag and baggage, an individual may continue to carry around burdens created due to past events and actions. This weight of negative emotions, sometimes referred to colloquially as "baggage," can have a detrimental effect on the well-being of the individual, miring them to a past that is long dead and limiting opportunities for enjoying the present. For example, someone who has experienced a close relationship that ended in bitter feelings may carry the bag and baggage of conflicting emotions and unresolved questions for many years afterward, effectively undermining any chances of developing a new relationship with anyone else.

When employed to indicate the presence of a heavy burden that provides no reasonable benefits, bag and baggage means that an individual is carrying burdens that should be cast off so the person can achieve a higher quality of life. To that end, counseling can often help to work through negative feelings and allow the individual to experience some relief from whatever he or she has been carrying around for an extended period of time, eventually dumping the excess baggage and getting back to the business of living.

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