"Flivver" in OED

Sun Jun 8 20:47:16 UTC 2003

        I didn't think of the apparent connection between flivver squad and flying squad.  "Flying squad" is familiar to me mainly from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, in which Macavity is described as "the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair."  (I once had a cat named Macavity, named after the poem.)  "Flying squad," of course, derives from the much older "flying squadron," which does not refer specifically to police.  Here's a transitional use, from 1925:

        >>He, however, was apparently suspicious of the good intentions of the defendants and their party, and on three separate occasions directed one of his employees to telephone to the police station for the "flying squadron." <<

People v. Rivera, 75 Cal.App. 222, 242 P. 506 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. Nov 18, 1925).

        There's no need to assume that "flivver squad" somehow derives from the apparently later term "flying squad."  "Squad," in reference to a police unit, had been around for years (OED has 1905).  Here's a much earlier use:

        >>Marshal Gifford was alone at the police office when the intelligence of the crowd at the plaintiffs' store arrived; he started immediately and intercepted a squad of police and took them at once to the store in question. <<

Mayor of Baltimore v. Poultney, 25 Md. 107 (Md. Jun 20, 1866).

        The OED also has 1938 for "squad car."  Here's some antedatings:

        >>Briefly stated, at about 7:30 p. m., October 19, 1922, Stroud, Gartland, and the defendant Pauly, patrolmen, were riding in a squad car, Stroud at the wheel, when they met a Buick car on the streets of St. Joseph, with only one headlight burning.<<

State v. Pauly, 267 S.W. 799 (Mo. Dec 31, 1924).

        >>The terms 'automobile, automobile truck,' were concededly interpreted by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue on January 12, 1918, to include any self-propelled vehicle, irrespective of the nature of its use, and that to fall within those terms it was essential that the vehicle or conveyance be used primarily for the transportation of persons or property other than the machine itself. By this interpretation motor fire engines and fire-fighting machines, if constructed to carry only such persons as were required to drive them, were excluded from the scope of the tax. Regulation No. 47 as amended (articles 11, 12, and 13), stating that the tax applied to automobile trucks, even though 'persons may incidentally be transported at the same time,' modified the previous rulings. Hook and ladder trucks, hose wagons, and squad cars were held taxable and taxes were paid thereon by plaintiff under protest, even though the sales were made to municipalities. It was afterwards ruled (regulation 44) that sales of motor fire engines and motor-transporting apparatus to states and political subdivisions were not taxable as automobiles, or as automobile trucks, and the taxes paid were refunded.<<

American-La France Fire Engine Co. v. Riordan, 294 F. 567 (W.D.N.Y. Nov 07, 1923).

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Wilton [mailto:dave at WILTON.NET]
Sent: Sunday, June 08, 2003 4:10 PM
Subject: Re: "Flivver" in OED

>         Although I didn't see any pre-WWI uses of "flivver"
> (assuming, as I do, that WWI started in 1914), I was struck
> by the unfamiliar term, "flivver squad," in 1919:
>         >>There was a telephone call at the police station
> that there were numerous shots being fired at Forty-Fourth
> place and Shields avenue, and the 'flivver squad' jumped into
> a Ford and went there as fast as they could. <<

"Flivver squad" is flying squad of police equipped with Model-Ts for
transport. The LOC's American Memory database has a Chicago Daily News photo
of a Chicago "flivver squad" standing next to their cars, but the date for
this photo is 1925.

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