← Urban legendYou do not have permission to edit this page, for the following reason: The action you have requested is limited to users in the group: Users. You can view and copy the source of this page. '''Urban legends''' are a kind of [[folklore]] consisting of stories often thought to be factual by those circulating them (see [[rumor]]). The term is often used with a meaning similar to the expression "apocryphal story." Urban legends are not necessarily untrue, but they are often false, distorted, exaggerated, or sensationalized. Despite the name, urban legends do not necessarily take place in an urban setting. The name is designed to differentiate them from traditional folklore created in preindustrial times. Urban legends are sometimes repeated in news stories and, in recent years, distributed by [[e-mail]]. People frequently say such tales happened to a "friend of a friend"—so often, in fact, that "[[friend of a friend]]", or "FOAF", has become a commonly used term for this sort of story. In the UK, urban legends are sometimes referred to as WTSes (Whale Tumour Stories), from a famous [[World War II]] story about whale meat. Some urban legends have survived a very long time, evolving only slightly over the years, as in the case of the story of a woman killed by spiders nesting in her elaborate hairdo. Others are new and reflect modern circumstances, like the story of people being anaesthetized and waking up minus a kidney [[surgery|surgically removed]] for [[organ transplant|transplant]]. Urban legends often are born of fears and insecurities, or specifically [[Fear, uncertainty and doubt|designed to prey on such concerns]]. ==Origins== [[Jan Harold Brunvand]] professor emeritus of English at the University of Utah in the [[United States]], first promoted the concept of the '''urban legend''' in his [] book ''[[The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends & Their Meanings]]''. Brunvand used his collection of legends to make two points: first, that [[legend]]s, [[Mythology|myth]]s, and [[folklore]] do not belong solely to so-called primitive or traditional societies; and second, that one could learn much about urban and modern culture by studying such legends. Brunvand has since published a series of similar books. The field also credits Brunvand as the first to use the term ''vector'' (after the concept of a [[biological vector]]) to describe a person or entity passing along an urban legend. ==Structure== Most urban legends are framed as [[story|stories]], with [[plot|plots]] and [[Fictional character|characters]]. The urban legends resemble a proper [[joke]], especially in the manner of transmission, only that they are much darker in tone and theme. The compelling nature of the story and its elements of mystery, horror, fear, or humor are part of what makes the tales so attractive. Many of these legends are presented as warnings or [[cautionary tale]]s. Other urban legends might better be called "widely dispersed misinformation", such as the erroneous belief that you will automatically pass all of your college courses in a semester if your roommate kills himself. While such "facts" may not have the narrative elements of traditional legend, they are passed from person to person and generally have the elements of horror, humor or caution found in legends. Similarly to the legends of older traditional times, urban legends also concern unexplained phenomena, like phantom apparitions. ==Propagation and belief == Many urban legends are about horrific [[crime]]s, contaminated foods or other situations that might affect a lot of people if they were true. If one hears such a story, and believes it, a person might feel compelled to warn friends and family. A person might also pass on non-cautionary information simply because it is funny or interesting. Many urban legends are basically extended [[joke]]s, told as if they were true events. In some cases they may have originated as pure jokes that some teller personalized to add point and force to the story. Some urban legends originate from parents who wish to scare their children into behaving. This often leads to stories where someone (usually a child) is acting in a similar manner and winds up hurt, dead, or in trouble. One such urban legend is that a [[ceiling fan]] can [[decapitate]] a person jumping on a bed (this was disproved on ''[[MythBusters]]''). The supposed argument for the creation of such stories is that it lowers the instances of misbehavior without the need to resort to actual punishment. Drawbacks include the creation of [[phobia]]s, and a general distrust of one's parents when one learns that many of the stories one has been told are false. People apparently take urban legends to be true instead of recognizing them as [[tall tale]]s or unsubstantiated [[rumor]]s because of the way the story is passed on. A friend who tells an urban legend may say it happened to a friend of somebody else. This apparent accountability adds force to the narrative and personalizes it. Since people, unconsciously or otherwise, often exaggerate, conflate or "clean up" stories when passing them on, urban legends can alter over time. :''See also:'' *[[meme]] *[[moral panic]] ==Urban legend versus urban myth== Some people use the term ''urban myth'' to refer to this type of folktale. [[Jan Harold Brunvand]] notes that the use of ''urban legend'' is less prejudicial because ''myth'' is commonly used to describe ideas and tales that are widely accepted as being untrue. The more academic definitions of myth usually refer to a [[supernatural]] tale involving [[god]]s, [[spirit]]s, the [[creation]] of the world, and so forth. :''See also:'' * [[Mythology]] ==Documenting urban legends== The advent of Internet e-mail has allowed the proliferation of many old and many new urban legends. At the same time, it has also allowed accelerated investigation of this social phenomenon. Discussing, tracking, and analyzing urban legends has become a popular pursuit. It is the topic of a thriving [[Usenet]] newsgroup, [[alt.folklore.urban]], and several Web pages, most notably [[snopes.com]]. The [[United States Department of Energy]] has a service called Hoaxbusters that deals with all sorts of computer-distributed hoaxes and legends. A TV series, ''[[MythBusters]]'', tries to prove or disprove urban legends by reproducing them. ==Examples== Many early historians recycled hearsay and [[anecdotal evidence|anecdotal]] accounts as historical facts. These writings served as the basis for other accounts, and thus inaccurate historical narrative created self-perpetuating, vicious circles. Well-known modern urban legends include the person who tried to dry off a wet poodle in a microwave oven, killing it; the [[vanishing hitchhiker]]; and [[sewer alligators|alligators]] said to live in New York City's sewers, where they grow to enormous size after having been flushed down the toilet by dissatisfied pet owners. An urban legend can very seldom be traced to its origins. For examples of those that can be, see [[The Submarine (shark)]] and [[Gloomy Sunday]], the tale of the so-called "Hungarian suicide song". == See also == *[[Sewer alligators]] *[[Conventional wisdom]] *[[Curse]]s *[[Drug urban legends]] *[[Faxlore]] *[[Folk etymology]] *[[Legend tripping]] *[[MythBusters]] *[[Old wives' tale]] *[[Skepticism]] *[[The Straight Dope]] *[[Urban Legends Reference Pages]], also known as the Snopes website *[[Barometer question]] *[[gossip]] ==External links== * [http://www.snopes.com/ Snopes - Urban Legends Reference Pages] . * [http://www.scambusters.org/legends.html ScamBusters on Urban Legends] * [http://groups.google.com/groups?q=alt.folklore.urban alt.folklore.urban newsgroup] * [http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/ Hoaxbusters] * [http://www.tafkac.org The AFU And Urban Legends Archive] * [http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_cul.htm Christian Urban Legends] * [http://urbanlegends.about.com About.com: Urban Legends and Folklore] * [http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/mythbusters/mythbusters.html Myth Busters TV show] [[Category:Popular culture]] Return to Urban legend. 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