, where the pleasure derived from good food bears an importance of almost religious intensity.
Considering its centrality to French life, one would think that the word boulangerie would have an obvious origin in the French language, something self-evident and logical ; but, surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Flicking through my Gaelic etymology dictionary by Charles Mackay recently, I stumbled on a possible solution to this problem. Mackay, equally puzzled by this word, derives it from the Gaelic builin meaning a loaf and anas, a dainty, a cake, a pastry. However, the former word rather disconcertingly means anus according to O Donaill’s Irish dictionary ! But assuming that it is an old word in Scots Gaelic, the language most familiar to the author, I have to admit the ingenious cogency of his interpretation. The Irish word denoting striking, beating or kneading is bualadh, whence builin meaning kneaded dough or bread. Putting these two words together we have bualanas, which is startlingly close to boulangerie. But if boulangerie is indeed cognate with the Irish word for loaf, perhaps we can only cite eight hundred years of British colonisation for the absence of a corresponding appreciation of bread and confectionary in Irish culture.
If one were to accept this etymology, one would have to conclude that boulangerie is an old Gaulish word which lived on in the superimposed latinate language of French.