What’s The Difference Between “Luggage” and “Baggage”?

During a recent edition of National Public Radio’s “A Way With Words“(the equivalent of “Car Talk” for word nerds), the hosts pondered the following caller question:
“What’s the difference between luggage and baggage?”
After kicking the question around for a while, the hosts concluded that the word “luggage” specifies the container, while “baggage” is more likely to refer to that which is lugged inside the container.
Image by TEDxAmericasFinestCity via Flickr
A fascinating question, and not just for word nerds.
Webster’s dictionary defines both terms identically: “Cases used to carry belongings when traveling”, though they include a second definition for baggage: “The portable equipment and supplies of an army.”
Merriam’s dictionary makes a slight distinction similar to one made by hosts, Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette. It defines “luggage” as “containers for carrying personal belongings”, and “baggage” as “the traveling bags and personal belongings of a traveler.” Interestingly, Merriam’s has a second, somewhat judgmental definition for baggage: “things that get in the way.” (Merriam’s must not like traveling that much.)
Based on our many years of serving people who’ve become extremely attached to our rollaboards, backpacks and totes, we don’t discount the personal element when defining our products.
In our experience, the term “baggage” is a generic, neutral term used to describe the boxes, trunks, suitcases, etc., people use to transport the articles they take on trips (it’s the terminology airlines use). In addition, “baggage” has a negative connotation in the commonly used phrase “emotional baggage.”
The term “luggage” also generates emotion, but with no such negativity. It’s the preferred term of satisfied users who deeply appreciate not only the bag itself, but how its highly engineered features improve their overall travel experience.
Our loyal customers take great pride in owning Travelpro luggage, and become emotionally invested in each piece. They associate the luggage with the business successes they’ve achieved and the family moments they treasure from past travels.
How do we know this? From the challenges we face when we upgrade one of our collections, and must explain to devoted users that an earlier model is no longer available. Invariably, the newer version offers many improvements but, in the customer’s eyes, it lacks the cherished memories.
“Luggage” or “baggage?”
It’s not just semantics. It’s a reflection of what Travelpro’s commitment, dedication and product quality mean to travelers worldwide.
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