[lit-ideas] Re: Rubbernecking

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2007 16:47:20 -0700

Assuming that the word was new-ish, I failed to check Partridge, who says,

rubber-neck; necking. A very inquisitive person; excessive curiosity or inquisitiveness U.S. (-1900), partly anglicised, esp. in Australia, ca 1905; slightly ob. Ex 'considering craning and stretching', as though one's neck were made of rubber: as in The Pall Mall Gazette, March 8, 1902.

rubber-neck, v.i. in the sense of the n. (q.v.): 1932, Dorothy Sayers, Have His Carcase, "She...could not waste time rubber-necking round Wilvercombe with Lord Peter [Wimsey]."

rubberneck car. An observation car: Canadian railroadmen's (-1931)

So what do we have? An American noun--still no trace of point of origin, though the date range is very narrow--that quickly spreads elsewhere in the English speaking world. Only later does it become a verb, referring to two different kinds of gawper: the aimless tourist and the accident vulture.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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