Challenging Word of the Week: mallecho


(MAL ih choh) noun

As the play within the play begins in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act III, Scene 2) and the players act out the poisoning of the king and the wooing and winning of the queen by the poisoner, Ophelia enters and cries, “What means this, my lord?” and Hamlet answers, “Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief. Thus Shakespeare himself supplies the definiition: mischief. Mallecho was derived from the Spanish noun malhecho (evil deed), base on the prefix mal-(evil) plus hecho (deed). Miching (MICH ing) is an adjective made of the present participle of the verb miche, meaning to “skulk” or “slink,” thought to be a variant of mooch (British slang for “slouch about” or “skulk,” differing from the American slang usage, to “scrounge,” both, however, coming from the same source, Middle English michen, to skulk or hide)…

Thus, miching mallecho means “sneaky mischief.” You may never run into this eloquent phrase in contemporary literature, unless you happen to read An Awkward Lie by the English whodunitist Michael Innes (b. 1906), where his detective Sir John Appleby, considering the mysterious disappearance of a corpse from a golf bunker, wonders about this “elaborate piece of miching malicho.” Malicho is a variant of mallecho, or vice versa. Some authorities say that it is vice versa, mallecho, influenced by the Spanish, being a learned emendation of malicho, the form favored by Michael Innes.

My example: The blogosphere has made it much more difficult for a miching mallecho to go unnoticed.

Hmmm, the reference above to a corpse in a golf bunker being a miching mallecho reminds me of the upcoming Second Annual Millard Fillmore Memorial KAR Nation Open Championship Golf Outing Classic (sponsored by Buick and The Kool Aid Report), known as “The MilF.” Miching? MilFing? Mischief, no doubt, will ensue.

From the book, “1000 Most Challenging Words” by Norman W. Schur, ©1987 by the Ballantine Reference Library, Random House. I post a weekly “Challenging Words” definition to call more attention to this delightful book and to promote interesting word usage in the blogosphere. I challenge other bloggers to work the current word into a post sometime in the coming week. If you manage to do so, please leave a comment or a link to where I can find it. Previous words in this series can be found under the appropriate Category heading in the right-hand sidebar.

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