Handel - handle

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Beware the homophones Handel and handle. Both are pronounced 'HAND-'l', IPA: /hænd əl/.

  • Handel is a surname, a diminutive form of 'Hans', in itself a diminutive form of 'Johannes', the German form of 'John'. The most famous bearer of the name is the composer George Frideric Handel (1685–1759).
    • He was born in Halle as Georg Friederich Händel: the umlaut on the '-a-' gives a pronunciation that the Italians gave as Hendel (he lived, studied and worked in Italy from 1706 to 1709). The French know him as Haendel. He used the form George Frideric Handel from 1716, when he finally settled in England.
  • The common noun handle means 'the part of an object which a user can hold in the hand to move or control it', such as a door-handle, or the handle of a saucepan. It may be detachable, like the handles of tools like shovels, brooms, garden forks and the starting handles of early motor cars, or more integrated, like the handles of knives and other cutlery, suitcases, toothbrushes and mechanical tools such as electric drills.
    • Figuratively, a handle is some form of leverage, or way of exerting control, over a person or goup of people, etc: one's knowledge of improper behaviour by an opponent (or ally) may be a powerful handle over them. It can also be 'a means of taking control or command of a situation', as when a player may 'get a handle of' a game.
      • In slang, a handle can be a name: it used to be limited to titles and other honorifics, then came more loosely 'a Sobriquet', and now can be used very widely, almost the slang way of saying 'a name'.
      • Earlier, and now obsoletely, a handle was 'a nose' - something which an opponent could grasp and use to control its owner.
      • To 'fly off the handle' is 'to lose control', particularly of one's temper: 'to become uncontrollably (and dangerously) enraged'. The image is of an axe-head sliding off its shaft (or handle).
  • The verb 'to handle' means literally 'to touch [with the hands]', 'to manipulate', 'to manage or control [an object] by using the hands'. This can be applied to
    • tools and weapons, etc
    • to animals, etc, where the sense includes 'to control'
    • to ships, bicycles and other vehicles
  • Less directly, it may refer to manipulation of certain materials or topics involved inb work of vfarious sorts, mostly creative:
    • a painter may handle colour well, be it vibrantly or discreetly, etc
    • a novelist may handle dialogue, or character, well
    • an academic may handle a subject or topic well - or, indeed, badly
  • More figuratively one may handle [groups of] people, such as regiments or armies of soldiers, or classes of schoolchildren.
    • to 'handle oneself' is 'to comport oneself', 'to behave'. This is specifically applied to being able to defend oneself in a fight.
    • to 'handle [a situation or emotion]' is to cope with it, 'to control it within one's powers'.
    • To handle material goods is to trade, or deal, in them; to buy or sell them; and particularly in later usage (twentieth century) 'knowingly receiving or dealing in stolen goods'. "Handling stolen goods is a statutory offence in England and Wales under the Theft Act (1968)" (OED 2013, s.v. handle, v.1, meaning 9.
There was, in South African English (influenced by Afrikaans, a verb, now obsolete, 'to handel', meaning 'to trade', 'to barter'. This is the Dutch verb 'handelen' 'to trade', recorded from 1573, paralleled in Midle High German handeln recorded in the fifteenth century.