Etymologie [ 'skär-p&r ] (intransitive verb.) circa 1846. In Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor (vol 3 1851) there is a chapter on "Punch Talk" (basically the slang language used by travelling Italian Punch and Judy men and entertainers). This slang contains English, Italian, Jewish and traveller roots. In Punch Talk, "To get away quickly" (e.g., from the police or authority) is spoken and written as "scarper". This comes from the Italian scappare, escappare (compare English escape). An alternative etymology traces the word "scarper" to the Cockney rhyming slang Scapa flow (“go”) (as in, e.g., "go away").