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Coined in the sense of "tourist" in the United States in the late 19th century. A favored Americanism of H.L. Mencken.


rubberneck (plural rubbernecks)

  1. Someone who engages in rubbernecking, or turning and staring.
    Synonym: rubbernecker
    • 1951, J. D. Salinger, chapter 17, in The Catcher in the Rye, Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown and Company, →OCLC, page 168:
      We must have looked gorgeous. And what made it worse, there was at least a hundred rubbernecks that didn't have anything better to do than stand around and watch everyone falling all over themselves.
  2. (US, obsolete) A tourist.
  3. Someone or something with a flexible neck.
    • 1912, Edward C. Wood, Electrically Operated Bell for Submarine Signaling [1], US Patent 1186961, line 57:
      "A suitable washer B1 and rubberneck B2, both of well known description, are provided to form with clapper arm B3 a watertight joint..."
    • '1972, Can Themba, The Will to Die, page 59:
      "Hi, rubberneck!' -- he clutched at her pear-like breast jutting from her sweater — 'how long did you think you'll duck me?'"

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rubberneck (third-person singular simple present rubbernecks, present participle rubbernecking, simple past and past participle rubbernecked)

  1. To watch by craning the neck (as though it were made of rubber), especially if the observer and observed are in motion relative to each other.
    The driver was so busy rubbernecking, trying to get a good view of the accident, that he was almost part of another accident.
  2. To cause (someone) to watch in fascinated horror, as if rubbernecking to see a roadside accident.
    • 2023 July 6, Pamela Paul, “What’s the Story With Colleen Hoover?”, in The New York Times[2]:
      Hoover’s books go down like a T.M.I. Facebook confessional, rubbernecking you in from the first sentence. Certain patterns quickly emerge.

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