a rough-neck

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Senior Member
français - France
Hello! Could you please tell me what is a "rough-neck" in this excerpt from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, cgapter 3?

He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished—and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.

Is-this a "thug", a "lout"?

Thank you.
  • PaulQ

    English - England
    Unless there is something in the text to indicate the precise area of occupation, the connection with (i) "Roustabout" or (ii) being an oil-rig worker, should not be drawn. "Roustabout" is any general manual labourer although, in the US, it is commonly linked to steamboats, dockworkers, circuses and oil-rigs.

    It is worth noting that "roughneck" is also "A person with rough manners; an uncultivated or uneducated person; (also) a quarrelsome troublemaker, a rowdy." (OED) although the two ideas (occupation and demeanour) are inextricably linked.
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