Saturday, June 09, 2007


I am always impressed when people who have known me only for a short time say something insightful about me. I warmed up to my once-boss, a super successful businessman from Russia, when he observed that I was more a boutique than a supermarket person. Not an obvious thing to say: I routinely buy all my basics in supermarkets, am known for my love for bargain, particularly two-for-the-price-of-one type, and find shops full of latest fashion and arrogant assistants unbearably boring. Something exclusive, specialised, trendy, expensive, and luxurious, particularly when used as an adjective - a boutique hotel or a boutique recruitment agency - is what the word boutique implies in English (and in the languages that have borrowed it from English, as in Russian butik.)

But in French, where the word comes from, it is a completely different story: boutique is just a small specialist shop. (On my first visit to France I was amused to find boutiques SNCF.) The word's etymology reveals its humble origins -- in Ancient Greek apotheke means storehouse, depository -- and its family connection. Spanish small shop bodega and Italian bottega, (one day, I hope to become a regular customer of one), are boutique's sisters, and Apotheke / apteka, drugstores in German and Russian, and certainly in other languages, are distant cousins.

In this meaning of a small useful shops, yes, I am a boutique girl. I prefer buying my supply of cheese from my favourite small shop. If it were in London, I am sure it would have been called Boutique Cheese Shop Le Fromage something, but as it is in Paris, this time, it is just a fromagerie.


Saffron said...

In italian we call bottega also a place where an artist works and sell his works, like "atelier" in french.

Baltic Polyglottic said...

Si,grazie mille! Mi ricordo bene delle botteghe di artigiani a Roma. Infatti, non c'e anche la Via delle Botteghe oscure?

Saffron said...

Sì, anche se questa via è ormai più nota per la presenza della sede di un partito politico.
Scrivi molto bene in italiano!

BETTINA said...

In Spanish:
"boutique del pan" is a fashionable bakery specializing in foreign and wholefood bread.