Regarding one of the most famous streets in Rouen, who has never wondered “But why do we say DU gros horloge and not DE LA grosse horloge? “. You might hear as an answer that the word “clock” used to be masculine, but that’s not quite right. To be precise, the word “clock”was neither masculine nor feminine but a neuter noun, as French descended from Latin. This is how sometimes you also hear “La grand place” or “La grand rue”.
The Rue de la Savonnerie has nothing to do with soap makers. It was called the “Rue de la Saunerie“, the sauniers being the salt professionals. They held their activities on the quay not far from this street, before moving to the other side of the Seine. The transmission being essentially oral, “Saunerie” became “Savonnerie “.
One might quickly imagine that men, women and children were slaughtered in this street in a bloody slaughter… This is not the case, although the origin of this street’s name is not at all appealing. As quoted by Jacques Le Lieur, in his Livre des Fontaines of 1525, it is the former “Rue des Boucheries Massacres” where butchers killed their animals there because there were no outdoor slaughterhouses.
What was the Vicomté? It was an institution of the old regime, the Viscounty of Water, both judicial (it judged problems on the waterways, especially river) and fiscal (it collected the rights of passage on or across the rivers).
No, bears did not once roam this street! But the origin of the name does have something to do with an animal: the goose, whose irregular plural was “bear”. A market for poultry and especially geese was held in the cemetery of the Church of Saint-Candé nearby.