When I religiously confess myself unto myself, I find the best good I have hath some vicious taint…. Man all in all is but a botching and parti-coloured work.
—Michel de Montaigne, “We Taste Nothing Purely,” translated by John Florio
The word “botch” has been in the news in the past few days. As Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, put it, the word has “captured the attention of the country, without question.” Shakespeare, like Montaigne (via Florio), used “botch” in its earlier sense of “patch.”
a work that is patched and of more than one color; see Feste, the “parti-coloured,” motley fool in Shakespeare, Twelfth Night: “bid the dishonest man mend himself: if he mend, he is no longer dishonest; if he cannot, let the botcher mend him. Anything that’s mended is but patched. Virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin, and sin that amends is but patched with virtue” (I.v.38–45).
Photo: Charles O’Rear (a name Shakespeare would have loved!) Hitchhiker with His Dog “Tripper” on U.S. 66, May 1972. Part of the Documerica series.