Bob was going to retire from teaching in June, and the foreign language department was planning on presenting him with some luggage at his retirement dinner. He wasn't supposed to know about it, but someone let the cat out of the bag. At the dinner Bob acted surprised, even though someone had told him what he was getting before the official presentation.

All dictionaries list only one meaning—the suitcases and other bags that you take with you when traveling. Nothing surprising here obviously. But I'm not really sure how it's being used in the context of the situation described in the paragraph. Any idea?

  • 3
    Why shouldn't you think that it's a gift of suitcases and the like? Even professors like to travel; and retirement offers more opportunity to travel than work. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 18 '14 at 14:55
  • @StoneyB I get the feeling that retirement gifts (more than a whip-round) like watches, clocks, luggage sets, portraits, crystal or something the apprentices have built etc. are probably not very common these days. – Frank Nov 18 '14 at 15:46
  • @Frank In the current state of academic pensions faculty seem to mostly go on teaching long past the point where they're too feeble and senile to care about travelling anyway! :) – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 18 '14 at 19:32

From oxforddictionaries.com...

luggage - Suitcases or other bags in which to pack personal belongings for travelling

Depending on context, luggage may refer to filled cases (or even just the collective contexts thereof). In OP's example they're obviously new, empty cases, probably more often referred to as a luggage set. But there's nothing wrong with the usage as cited, and the intended sense is clear from context.

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  • also, well-chosen words because to present him with "some suitcases & a carry-on bag" would be pushing the bounds of sentence-decency verging on daytime TV ;-) – gone fishin' again. Nov 18 '14 at 20:46

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