Spiv

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A man dressed as a spiv selling goods "from the back of a lorry" at a 2011 historical re-enactment, complete with a look-out watching for the law Man dressed as a spiv.jpg
A man dressed as a spiv selling goods "from the back of a lorry" at a 2011 historical re-enactment, complete with a look-out watching for the law

In the United Kingdom, the word spiv is slang for a type of petty criminal who deals in illicit, typically black market, goods. The word was particularly used during the Second World War and in the post-war period when many goods were rationed due to shortages.

Contents

According to Peter Wollen, "The crucial difference between the spiv and the classic Hollywood gangster was the degree of sympathy the spiv gained as an intermediary in the transfer of black market goods to ... a grateful mass of consumers." [1]

Origins

The origin of the word is obscure. According to Eric Partridge [2] the word was originally racecourse slang, but had become widely accepted by 1950. It appeared in a paperback crime novel in 1934. [3]

The Oxford English Dictionary states that it may come from:

Other suggestions have been made, most commonly noting that spiv is also a Romani word for a sparrow, implying the person is a petty criminal rather than a serious "villain" [7] or that it is an American police acronym for Suspicious Person Itinerant Vagrant, [8] though this is an unlikely formation and is probably a backronym. [5]

The word was popularized by Bill Naughton in a September 1945 News Chronicle article, "Meet the Spiv". [9]

Appearance

The spiv had a characteristic look which has been described as "A duck's arse haircut, Clark Gable moustache, rakish trilby [hat], drape-shape jacket, and loud garish tie ... [which] all represented a deliberate snook cocked at wartime austerity." [10]

The comedian Arthur English had a successful career immediately after the Second World War appearing as a spiv with a pencil moustache, wide-brimmed hat, light-coloured suit and a large bright patterned tie. [11]

Spiv cycle films

A series of British crime films produced between 1945 and 1950, during the time that rationing was still in effect, dealt with the black market and related underworld, and have been termed spiv movies or the spiv cycle by critics. [12] Examples are Brighton Rock and Night and the City in which the spiv is a main character. Other crime films which have been cited as part of the spiv cycle – though not always featuring a spiv character, just criminal dealings – are They Made Me a Fugitive , It Always Rains on Sunday , Odd Man Out , No Way Back , The Third Man and Waterloo Road . [13]

Other appearances

See also

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References

  1. Peter Wollen (2002) Paris Hollywood - Writings on Film pp1856
  2. Partridge, E., (1966) Origins: A short etymological dictionary of modern English 4th ed
  3. Axel Bracey (1934) School for Scoundrels (Rich and Cowan)
  4. Oxford English Dictionary
  5. 1 2 World Wide Words Richard English: Spiv
  6. e.g. Daily Mirror 30 August 1914." “Spiv” Bagster, ....went to prison yesterday for three months as a "rogue and vagabond.” ... Bagster was detected in the yard of Victoria Station offering imitation jewellery or sale as genuine."
  7. Green, Jonathon. The Cassell Dictionary of Slang
  8. The Spectator 4 December 1982 Jeffery Bernard "Low Life"
  9. Roodhouse, Mark (2010-09-28). "City Bankers - Spivs or Profiteers?". History & Policy.
  10. Savage, Jon. Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture. New York: Viking, 2007. ISBN   978-0-670-03837-4
  11. The Independent 19 April 1995 Obituaries: Arthur English
  12. S. Chibnall & R. Murphy (eds) (1999) British Crime Cinema Routledge ISBN   0-415-16869-4
  13. "www.screenonline.org.uk". www.screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
  14. Henke, James (May 17, 1979). "Joe Jackson Puts His Best Shoe Forward". Rolling Stone . Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (291): 22.