Did you know? Do you know the origins of the Bistro Parisien?

Published by My de Sortiraparis · Photos by My de Sortiraparis · Published on January 17th, 2024 at 08:29 a.m.
"Bistro" in Paris: an emblematic term for popular bars, but where does it come from? Between myths and realities, discover the story behind this famous word, which may have come down to us from the Cossacks.

The streets of Paris resonate with the clinking of glasses and laughter in its many bistros, symbols of Parisian life. But where does this emblematic word come from? The origins of"bistro" remain shrouded in mystery and legend, reflecting the cultural richness of the French capital.

"Bistro" or"bistrot", this name with its many spellings, leaves no one indifferent. In Paris, it's associated with convivial places where café, restaurant and bar come together. It's a place to meet and share, offering quick and easy service, where you can enjoy traditional French dishes in a popular, family atmosphere. Checkered tablecloths, tasty dishes such as boeuf bourguignon, and pleasant, if unglamorous, wines characterize these spaces.

There are several theories about the origin of the term. One goes back to the 19th century, the period of Russian occupation of Paris. According to a plaque at the restaurant"La Mère Catherine" in Montmartre, in 1814, Russian Cossacks frequently shouted"Bistro!" (Russian: "быстро!"), meaning "quickly!", to be served quickly. This popular anecdote suggests that Parisians adopted the term to designate their buvettes.

Another hypothesis links "bistro" to French regional terms such as "Bistingo" or "bistraud", respectively designating a cabaret or a wine merchant. "Bistouille", a Northern French term for coffee mixed with brandy, is also mentioned.

Despite these theories, the exact etymology remains unclear. Dictionaries struggle to make up their minds, proposing an "uncertain" origin. This uncertainty is also reflected in the word's variable spelling.

The hypothesis of Russian origin, although historically unfounded, is often preferred by historians and fans of Parisian legends. It evokes the city's tumultuous past, marked by the occupation of Tsar Alexander I's Russian army.

Beyond its mysterious origins, the "bistro" remains a pillar of Parisian culture. A symbol of conviviality and simplicity, these places continue to charm residents and tourists alike. Addresses such as Procope, La Coupole and Bouillon Chartier offer an authentic plunge into the world of bistros.

In short, the word "bistro" is more than just a name. It embodies a way of life, an atmosphere, a part of the Parisian soul. Whether it's an invention of the Russian Cossacks, a popular term from the Poitevin dialect, or a word from the patois of the North, it remains an inseparable symbol of Paris.

The next time you step through the door of one of these establishments, remember the rich and complex history behind this simple word. Parisian bistros are more than just places to eat; they reflect an enduring culture, history and tradition.

As such, the "bistro" continues to captivate and intrigue. In the heart of Paris, these establishments are the guardians of a mysterious past, offering a space where time seems suspended, where every glass and every dish tells a story. This ambivalence between myth and reality makes the "bistro" a fascinating subject, a reflection of Parisian identity.

In Paris, every "bistro" is an open door to history, an invitation to discover the many facets of a capital rich in stories and legends. Whether for a glass of wine, a traditional meal, or simply to savor the atmosphere, Parisian bistros are a must for the Parisian experience.

Bistro: a word, a story, an experience. Paris, with its cobbled streets and emblematic monuments, invites us to explore these little corners of conviviality, witnesses to a rich past and a vibrant present. The origin of the word "bistro" may remain a mystery, but its spirit lives on in every street, every square, every corner of the French capital.

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