The origin of the word is uncertain. A derivation has been suggested from the eponymous dragon-like creature in the obsolete The Dandy comic strip "Jimmy and his Grockle", based on an earlier strip, "Jimmy Johnson's Grockle", in The Rover comic in the 1920s, somehow leading to use in the present sense in the movie The System (1964). It is doubtful that the word's use in the West of England goes back farther than that.
Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English also refers to the film The System but suggests another derivation, that holiday visitors in Torbay were compared to little clowns, and Grock (1880–1959) was a famous clown at the time.
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grockle (plural grockles)
- (slang, Britain, various parts of the West Country) A tourist from elsewhere in the country
In more recent times it has spread to other parts of the south coast and indeed elsewhere, including the former colonies of Northern and Southern Rhodesia as a term for a foreigner. The term is widely used in Devon and other areas of rural England where it refers to tourists or people recently relocated from elsewhere; it is mildly derogatory. Climbers in England & Wales use it as a dismissive term for less serious visitors to upland areas. On Snowdon in North Wales the two easiest walking routes to the summit (along side the railway and the PYG Track) have each been referred to informally as the Grockle Track.
The word was imported to the Isle of Man in 1970 by Capt McKenzie who had learned the word in Plymouth. Commonly referred to tourists in cars who can be easily identified because all Manx number plates have either MN or MAN in them.
- grockle art, pictures for selling to grockles
- grockle bait, cheap arcades
- grockle box and grockle shell, caravan
- grockle can, a tourist bus
- grockle catcher, an easy to reach beach or beauty spot which acts to stop tourists finding other local spots
- grockle fodder, fish and chips
- grockle nest, a holiday home or second home
- grockle-ridden, full of grockles
- overner, similar term used by residents of the Isle of Wight used more to refer to non-natives who have moved to the island to live/work. “I’ve lived here 20 years, but I’m still seen as an overner”.