I love the English language, which is a good thing since it’s the only one I speak. One of the endearing features about it is the number of odd little words that pop up occasionally in normal speech. Often they are part of colloquialisms to which we pay little attention reeling them off as a whole, almost is if the entire phrase was one word.
One such which I was reminded of this morning was motley, as in “On with the motley”, or “They’re a motley crew!”.
What’s more, it seems the more I look at it and say it, the stranger it feels and sounds… motley.
In use it means more or less an assortment or ‘mixed collection’, with the emphasis on disorder or having a haphazard quality. According to Wikipedia it refers directly to the costume of the ‘court jester’ or Harlequin. However this is slightly at odds with Eric Partidge who suggests the origin might be ‘quartered’, which might also fit. From that it would seem the name of the costume was coined from the word rather than the other way round and that would in turn lead to it’s somewhat less limited meaning but far more reduced usage in modern English.
Either way I like the word motley… now… about the word wrench… 🙂