Dr. Johnson is even more evocative. In his Dictionary, a micher is “a lazy loiterer, who skulks about in corners and by-places, and keeps out of sight; a hedge creeper.” Let’s follow this trail a little further. The OED describes “hedge creeper” as “obsolete,” a designation I always resent. If at least one man or woman has found a word useful at some point in history, it can’t be obsolete (except for “awesome”). Ideas and machines can be obsolete; not words or people. The OED even gives Johnson’s definition as part of its own: “`One that skulks under hedges for bad purposes’ (Johnson); a hedge-bird; a sneaking rogue.” The citations are juicy. Thomas Nashe in The Unfortunate Traveller (1594) gives us “a sweating eausdropper, a scraping hedgecreeper.” John Bunyan in Jerusalem-Sinner Saved (1688) has “These poor, lame, maimed, blind, hedge-creepers and highwaymen, must come in.” And Peter Anthony Motteux, in his translation of Rabelais (1737), offers “Rovers, Ruffian-Rogues, and Hedge-Creepers.”
There are michers and hedge-creepers among us. Walk down the street and you’ll probably trip over one. They are not obsolete.