I believe that many Europeans see a purse as a wallet, but in the midwest of the US, purse and handbag are interchangable. I prefer handbag, though.
I think it's purely semantics. I know I can't stand the word "pocketbook" which is supposed to mean bag/purse as well.
we go to the US a lot. when i was like 14 some girl said to me "cute pocketbook" i just said thanks then asked my mom why she wouldve thought the boko i was carrying was cute. lol. funny most american lingo travels north of the border but this one never caugh on.
Oddly enough, I can't stand "pocketbook" either. Just sounds ancient to me ush: