Green’s Dictionary of Slang

fiddle v.2

[SE fiddle, to swindle; the swindler can ‘make people dance to his tune’]

1. to make one’s living taking small jobs on the street, e.g. unloading a cart.

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.

2. to cheat, to swindle [prior use from 17C is SE].

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 130/2: We are generally fiddled most tremendous.
[US] ‘I Am A Downy Bird’ My Young Wife and I Songster 43: Now to be sold or ‘fiddled’ / This covey knows too much.
[UK]W.E. Henley ‘Villon’s Straight Tip’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 176: Fiddle, or fence, or mace, or mack; / Or moskeneer, or flash the drag.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Equality’ Punch 22 Feb. 85/2: Normans nicked? Landlords copped? Lawyers fiddled? Quite likely.
[UK]A. Morrison Tales of Mean Streets (1983) 139: They couldn’t ’ave me, not for a single farden—not a farden, try an’ fiddle as they would.
[Aus]Advertiser (Adelaide) 16 June 16/1: A certain bookmaker used to call on them and ask for money ‘to fiddle these blokes up’.
[UK]P. Allingham Cheapjack 210: The tick-off is a fiddling game.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 115: Men who will [...] ‘fiddle’ anything from sets of surgical instruments to books of clothing coupons.
[UK]W. Hall Long and the Short and the Tall Act II: Nothing to choose between you – except Bammo fiddles it to suit himself.
[UK]B. Reckord Skyvers III iii: You go after the big things you know about, like rock ’n roll and football; even fiddlin’.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 12 Oct. 25: Others are ripping off the tax and fiddling their expenses.
[UK]‘Derek Raymond’ He Died with His Eyes Open 23: Plenty of people these days fiddled the rules; they had to, to survive.
[UK]C. Dexter Remorseful Day (2000) 290: Could he have fiddled a few quid here and there?
[UK]Indep. 23 Feb. 8: Labour was becoming associated with ‘fix and fiddle’ in the same way that the Tories had been linked to sleaze.

3. to drug liquor.

[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 62: One of ’em [i.e. glasses of wine] ’e tasted ’imself, so’s to show me it wasn’t fiddled.

4. (UK tramp) to beg.

[UK]J. Worby Other Half 277: Fiddle, to go about begging from different people.

5. to cheat on one’s expenses.

[UK]‘Henry Green’ Loving (1978) 191: Fiddlin’ ’er monthly books. No. You know that’s serious this is.
[UK]C. Wood Fill the Stage With Happy Hours (1967) Act VII: A bob or two a week is all he can fiddle on that fiddle diddle.

6. to work as a petty thief.

[UK]R. Hauser Homosexual Society 158: The one who ‘fiddles’ tools from the factory or who ‘wangles’ an income tax return.
[UK]P. Willmott Adolescent Boys of East London (1969) 147: Stealing from or defrauding one’s employer – often dignified by being described as ‘knocking off’ or ‘fiddling’.