SPIVs and Black Market (June 2003)

Posted by Bob on March 01, 2005

In Reply to: SPIVs and Black Market (June 2003) posted by Gary 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.

Precious few words started life as acronyms. Radar, scuba and snafu are perhaps the most famous.