sot-bookay [set-bouquet]


Senior Member
Spanish (Spain)
Hello everybody:

I'm not sure if this question actually belongs in this forum, but I think French and English might be involved here, so I guess right now it is the best place to ask for help. If it is found eventually that it doesn't belong here, I ask kindly to some moderator to move it to where it should be.

So, the thing is that I'm working on a translation of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. In Chapter 37, two of the novel characters (Laurie and Amy; Laurie is a young gentleman, and Amy a young lady) are about to join a ball in 19th century's Nice. Amy is waiting for Laurie, and then the young man appears and says to her:

“Here are your flowers. I arranged them myself, remembering that you didn’t like what Hannah [an uneducated servant] calls a ‘sot-bookay’,” said Laurie, handing her a delicate nosegay, in a holder that she had long coveted as she daily passed it in Cardiglia’s window [a shop].

Ok, so my problem is what "sot-bookay" means. I'm pretty sure that bookay is bouquet, but less sure whether sot is here a corruption of some English word I cannot ascertain or just the French word ("SOT se dit également de Certaines choses fâcheuses ou ridicules", Dictionnaire de L'Académie française 8th Edition). Hannah doesn't speak any French, I guess, given that she is an uneducated woman, but as I'm a bit at a loss here, this is the only idea I've come up with.

I'd appreciate it very much if anyone could help me out to solve this mistery.
  • Axelroll

    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    Agree with you and "bookay / bouquet".
    Hannah can't speak any French ? Could it mean " a sort of bouquet" ?
    If she speaks French, there is no clue in the book that could make the reader think that. It might be some French expression that she heard someone say, as the French language was considered very elegant and fashionable in the USA in the 19th century, but it seems an unlikely possibility to me.

    "A sort of bouquet"? Don't know, really :confused:


    Senior Member
    French - France
    ... Got it! Then there might be a misunderstanding of what was actually said.

    I was already thinking of "pot" rather than "sot" here - just like in "pot-pourri" (ie. potpourri) - but it's very difficult to be certain.


    Senior Member
    Spanish (Spain)
    After much research and thought, I believe that I have found the solution to the mistery, and it has nothing to do with French. Hannah is a woman of Irish descent (something I discovered just recently, as it is not said explicitly in the book), and "sot-bookay" is her way of saying (with Irish accent) "set-bouquet", i.e., a "prepared" bouquet of flowers, such as one can buy in a shop. That is why Laurie says “Here are your flowers. I arranged them myself, remembering that you didn’t like [set-bouquets]".

    If you make a search for "sot" in this old book in which Irish accent is rendered phonetically (or so I think), you can see clearly that the author writes "sot" when he means "set":

    An Irish heart. Well enough for the vulgar

    Thanks to everybody who tried to help me! I really didn't know how to solve this. This thread should be in the English Only forum, so I'd appreciate if a moderator could move it there.

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "sot-bookay" is her way of saying (with Irish accent) "set-bouquet", i.e., a "prepared" bouquet of flowers, such as one can buy in a shop
    I think you're right.

    (I clicked "report" at the bottom of your most recent post to request that the moderators consider moving the thread to English Only. :))
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