One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1‘we've received only a handful of letters’
a small number, a small amount, a small quantity, a sprinkling, a smattering, a scattering, a trickle
a few, one or two, several, some, not many
2‘the child is a real handful’
nuisance, problem, bother, irritant, source of annoyance, thorn in someone's flesh, thorn in someone's side, bugbear
pest, headache, pain, pain in the neck, pain in the backside, blister
Scottish nyaff, skelf
North American pain in the butt, nudnik, burr in someone's saddle, burr under someone's saddle
Australian fair cow
NZ Australian nark
British vulgar slang pain in the arse
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