The anglosphere has a bewildering proliferation of regional names for corner stores: "variety stores," "bodegas," "delis," "corner shops," "party stores," "package stores" (often shortened to the unfortunate "packies"), "offies/off-licenses," "milk bars," etc.
Atlas Obscura delves into the origins of these names, as well as some Spanish-speaking countries' versions (like the mysterious Central American "Pulperia," which is what Spaniards call restaurants that serve octopus (pulpe), as well as Asian store-names like the Philippines "sari-sari" stores, the Malay peninsula's "Mama Stores," and many others.
The bodega, in New York City, is perhaps the most famous variation on this theme. The word "bodega" is a Spanish word deriving from the Latin apothēca, or apothecary. It has various meanings, none of which is "market," as is commonly stated. (The word for market is mercado.) Instead it means something closer to "storeroom" or "cellar," a pretty accurate description. In Spain, it mostly refers to a wine cellar.
The word has been in common use in New York since, roughly, the 1950s, following the exodus from Cuba upon Fidel Castro's rise to power. A 1940 New York Times article defined "bodega" as "Cuba's combination of grocery and bar," a definition which would be superseded soon as the word came to be used for the convenience store. Heavy waves of immigrants, especially from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, landed in New York City around this time, and these immigrants disproportionately began to own and work in bodegas. Their word for the store is bodega, and so the greater New York City word for the store became bodega.
What Do You Call the Corner Store?
[Dan Nosowitz/Atlas Obscura]
(Image: Darkest London)