[lit-ideas] Re: Rubbernecking

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2007 15:25:46 -0700

The word's origins go back to the beginning of the last century. It was in comon use when I was growing up (much more than 37-8 years ago), and referred to gawking at (while driving past) the scene of a road accident, fire, potential suicide on a bridge, etc. The implication was that such people were showing a creepy interest the injuries or loss of others (there's a touch of Schadenfreude in it). Rubberneckers usually impeded traffic by slowing down to get a better look.

There's another word, 'looky-loo,' which seems to refer to those who have an unsophisticated interest in things, but maybe without the Schadenfreude. I've seen the word often in California real estate advertisements: 'No looky-loos.'This seems to be a way of saying 'serious inquiries only.' It's an expression that doesn't seem yet to have reached the Pacific Northewest.

Robert Paul
Reed College

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