Giles Zimmer


Often when children are exposed to a word for the first time, the instance of its use is so vivid that the word is indelibly impressed upon the memory. There are many words which, though no longer used today, I still remember because of experiences associated with the words. This is true for the word "rubberneck". I remember, as a child, how I used to lift up the phone receiver, only to hear the familiar accusation of "rubberneck, rubberneck". This was a fairly common experience for me and, I am sure, for many others who inadvertently blundered into a conversation on the party line. The word has always intrigued me. As a child, I could never make the connection between "rubber" and eavesdropping. Of course, some basic research into the etymology of the word has solved the mystery. Originally, the word referred to a gaping person: thus the rubber neck.