SPIVs and Black Market (June 2003)

Posted by Gary on March 01, 2005

In Reply to: SPIVs and Black Market (June 2003) posted by B. Miller on March 01, 2005

: When I was a young boy (over 70 years ago) I was told that the mid-Victorian police, who were fond of picking up people 'without visible means of support', had a charge sheet: 'Suspected Person or Itinerant Vagrant', hence SPIV. A copper might say 'I've got another SPIV 'ere sarge'!

The OED has no citation for spiv before 1934, so it's not likely to be Victorian in origin.

There are numerous acronyms put forward as origins of phrases. They are almost always (and I'm not even sure about the almost) fiction. For example:

Golf - gentlemen only, ladies forbidden
Fuck - For unlawful carnal knowledge
Posh - Port out, starboard home

are all nonesense. I'd go so far as saying that spiv is too. If it weren't the evidence to support it would be easy to find.

There's also the fact that 'suspected person or itinerant vagrant' isn't what spiv means, which is:

A man who lives by his wits and has no regular employment; one engaging in petty blackmarket dealings and freq. characterized by flashy dress.