London’s Street Bankers

London

Spivs

Whenever my gran wanted ‘a flutter’ on the horses or the dogs, she sent for the man over the road who acted as the street’s banker. Every working class street had a Mr Fix-It, as well as a local woman you could visit for ‘marital advice’.

The men ran book, bought and sold, lent money, collected and delivered, and ‘sorted things out’. They usually held office in the local pub. In Alexander Baron’s novel ‘King Dido’, they take care of local problems, which means running up against the police and opposing those in the next street over – and so gangs are formed.

A friend points me to an interesting story about the murder of Stan ‘The Spiv’ Setty in Warren Street, back when it used to be the main centre for used cars in London. Men like The Spiv worked as kerbside bankers out of lock-ups in the mews behind the street – this was between the wars –  and they were usually carrying a fair bit of cash in their sharp suits. You can read the much more in-depth article here. Spivs like Stan made a big return during and after WWII because of shortages in shops. The classic postwar image is of Sidney Tafler or Harry Fowler (no relation) with jackets full of black market nylons and betting slips.

‘Spiv’ is a bit of a lost word now, although I still use it, and there’s a suggestion on the site that it’s a Romani corruption meaning ‘sparrow’. ‘Chav’, ‘drag’, ‘lollipop’, ‘pal’ and ‘shiv’ are all Romani-based words still in use.

There are an awful lot of weird English words and phrases that I and my friends still tend to use; ‘nante’, ‘latty’, ‘geezer’, ‘Teddy Boy’, ‘birds’, ‘wide boy’ and ‘whistle’ (i.e. suit), for starters. I may start a campaign to shift them back into regular usage. Anyone got some good ones I’ve forgotten?

 

12 comments on “London’s Street Bankers”

  1. agatha hamilton says:

    Please, what do ‘nante’, ‘latty’, and ‘shiv’ mean?

  2. Helen Martin says:

    I’m always afraid of “in” words becoming used publicly. It just means the in crowd have to find new ones, although I wouldn’t mind knowing, ether.

  3. Vivienne says:

    I used ‘bonce’ recently to completely blank looks.

  4. snowy says:

    Nanti, various spellings, meaning changes with context: no, none, stop, watch out.

    Lattie, again spellings various: house, home.

    Both from Polari a slang that originated in the 19C from Italianate roots. History to long to recount, remained very opaque to the uninitiated until it went mainstream with a pair of radio characters ‘Julian and Sandy’.

    [Link above to a sketch called ‘Bona Prods’, that uses both, and a few others.]

    Shiv is older from criminal cant, means both a knife or to knife/stab/cut somebody.

  5. Jeanette says:

    When I moved ‘up north’ from London people would say “Look at that ole boy” and I would look for elderly men and not seeing any would say “Where”? and they would point to a young man!!

    Codswallop.. talking rubbish
    Faff…………..stop dithering

  6. Jeanette says:

    When I moved ‘up north’ from London people would say “Look at that ole boy” and I would look for elderly men and not seeing any would say “Where”? and they would point to a young man!!

    Codswallop.. talking rubbish
    Faff…………..stop dithering

  7. Mim says:

    Heh, Jeanette, in Norfolk you can have a boy of 80!

    One boy is half a man, two boys is half a boy, and three boys int no boy at all…

    I suppose ‘scrote’ is the main word I still use that has fallen out of favour.

  8. Ford says:

    In Devon, we use use Boy, pronounced Bay! for males of all ages; and, Maid, for females of all ages. Mynmaid could be my sister, my mother, my granny, my wife etc., (or, before anyone else says it, in Deb’m, that could be any combination of those!) Mate/matey is also used for blokes! I’ve had long conversations with people, using Matey,Bay and Maid, without names being used!

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Oh, Julian and Sandy! I can hear the voice! (and I do know the difference between ether and either).

  10. admin says:

    A friend from Sheffield gives away his roots by adding ‘our’ to the name of any family member and saying ‘was sat’ instead of ‘was sitting’.

  11. Peter Dixon says:

    Boko for bonce or head. Also Napper

    Fizzog or Phizog for face – probably from the word physiognomy.

    A friend of mine was unemployed ‘on the Dole’ and was given money from them to buy a suit for job interviews; he referred to it as his ‘Nat King Whistle’ – work it out!

    Bent as in crooked. An aged aunt once broke me up by referring to someone as being ‘as bent as Harry Lauder’s walking stick’

  12. Michelle says:

    I love the word tranklements, to mean alsorts of bits and bobs

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