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  #1  
Old 07-22-2006, 03:53 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Urban Legends are always false

A friend insists that by definition an 'urban legend' is false. It were not false it would cease to be an urban legend and become 'urban fact'. He won't budge on this.

I think that an urban legend is a story that gets circulated and becomes believed. Many of them are of course false; but some stories are indeed true. That they are true does not negate that they are told and retold as part of a society's lore.

What do you think?
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  #2  
Old 07-22-2006, 03:59 PM
Airman Doors, USAF Airman Doors, USAF is offline
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The basis of some of the stories may be true, but even the ones that are true are distorted and embellished to the point where they require some sort of debunking and/or clarification, so in that sense they're false.

If it's absolutely true, however outlandish it is, it's not really an urban legend. When was the last time you confirmed a rumor by calling it an urban legend? Probably never, because the term "urban laegend" has come to mean fake in the public consciousness.
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  #3  
Old 07-22-2006, 04:08 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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I'm mostly with your friend on this. If the known facts are all true, then it's not a legend. I would say it is then more "lore" than legend.

But I agree with you that an ectual event could trigger an urban legend. Sometimes the circumstances are stretched. In other cases I would say the legend part is the purported "moral of the story" -- the conclusion that the a "reasonable person" MUST reach when confronted by a particular set of facts.
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  #4  
Old 07-22-2006, 04:21 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyo Jim
I'm mostly with your friend on this. If the known facts are all true, then it's not a legend. I would say it is then more "lore" than legend.
I see your point and agree that it would be lore. But given that lore and legends are both 'traditional narratives' I put them together.
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Old 07-22-2006, 04:27 PM
Ice Wolf Ice Wolf is offline
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I deal with local history, studying and researching it, as well as preparing articles and reports. I'm very careful to use the term "lore" rather than "legend" when referring to recurring stories about events which haven't been substantiated yet. "Legend" has the connotation of "myth". "Lore" is more "wisdom" which is passed down.
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  #6  
Old 07-22-2006, 04:29 PM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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Here's another vote for the legend as at least partly false. Myths, legends, lore, etc., are just different labels for "popular fiction" and fiction is generally false to some degree even if "based on" actual events or characters. The novel In Cold Blood of Capote's is not regarded as "fiction" as such, but he probably fictionalized some of the details to make the story more entertaining.

I don't regard that story as Urban Legend as the events (for the most part) actually occurred, even if not precisely as Capote laid them out.
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  #7  
Old 07-22-2006, 07:34 PM
Dan Norder Dan Norder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
A friend insists that by definition an 'urban legend' is false. It were not false it would cease to be an urban legend and become 'urban fact'. He won't budge on this.
By definition, people who make this claim are completely ignorant of the meaning of these words.

Neither legends nor myths (in the academic meaning, at least) have any sort of judgment on whether the storyis actually true or false. Many of them are false, of course, but it's not at all a factor in whether they are called myths or legends.
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  #8  
Old 07-22-2006, 07:42 PM
Dan Norder Dan Norder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeldar
Myths, legends, lore, etc., are just different labels for "popular fiction"
No, no, NO, NO!

Ugh, that one is just so amazingly wrong that it's painful.

Fiction is something someone purposefully created to tell a story, knowing it was just make believe.

Myths, in the academic definition, are stories of the supernatural, divine, etc. that the culture or people it comes from BELIEVES to be true. This is a huge and extremely important difference.

Legends are tales with ostensibly historical basis about heros/important figures and actions they took. If it was known to be made up when told, then it is not a legend, but simply fiction.

Fictional is purposeful, known from the beginning to be false, created with conscious efforts to be created. Myths and legends (and some but not all folklore) are not at all fiction. Completely different creation process and meaning.

The real problem is that people have been sloppy in the use of these terms for years and so few people actually read up on what these terms are.
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  #9  
Old 07-22-2006, 07:47 PM
Dan Norder Dan Norder is offline
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While we are at it:

"Urban legends are not necessarily untrue, but they are often false, distorted, exaggerated, or sensationalized."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_legend


"An urban legend: [...] does NOT have to be false, although most are. "

http://tafkac.org/ -- quoting the alt.folklore.urban FAQ
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  #10  
Old 07-22-2006, 08:00 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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I would vote that if it needs debunking in some way it is a UL. If it does not, then you have simply found a new factoid.
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  #11  
Old 07-22-2006, 08:04 PM
Danalan Danalan is offline
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Snopes has an expanded definition from their glossary.
Quote:
A common mistake is the equation of 'urban legend' with 'false' (i.e., "Oh, that's an urban legend!"). Though the vast majority of such tales are pure invention, a tiny handful do turn out to be based on real incidents.
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  #12  
Old 07-22-2006, 08:10 PM
Dan Norder Dan Norder is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sage Rat
I would vote that if it needs debunking in some way it is a UL. If it does not, then you have simply found a new factoid.
Well, it's a good thing these things aren't up for a vote then I guess...
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  #13  
Old 07-23-2006, 10:20 AM
Zeldar Zeldar is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Norder
No, no, NO, NO!

Ugh, that one is just so amazingly wrong that it's painful.
At the time I posted my comments this thread was in the IMHO forum. The comments are my opinion. My opinion is based on my own interpretation of the meanings of the terms expressed. I made no claim as to the universality of my opinion.

It's perfectly fine for you to object to my opinion. That's your opinion.

And if my opinion causes you pain, in my opinion you have a low threshold of pain.
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  #14  
Old 07-23-2006, 11:41 AM
Dpimi Dpimi is offline
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An urban legend is akin to gossip. I recall George Burns on a "60 Minutes" interview saying his wife Gracie used to love gossip. Ironically she would call George over and read what someone wrote about George and Gracie and say "Isn't that ridiculous anyone would believe that." Because it was 100% false. Yet Gracie would hole heartedly believe everything ELSE written about everyone else in the same column.

It's kind of like a bunch of kids talking. Did you ever see this, each one makes up stuff and KNOWS he is lying when he says it but as each one knows HE is lying they believe the additional lies the other kids are making up.

That is how Urban Legends get created. You take a small truth and exaggerate it to make it more colorful and the next thing you know it gets out of hand.

I used to work with one lady and she must've owned the "big book of urban legends" because everything in it happened to her. From the earwigs in her ear to finding the dead body in the hotel room under the bed. If it was an urban legend somehow it happened to her
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  #15  
Old 07-23-2006, 01:24 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Norder
Well, it's a good thing these things aren't up for a vote then I guess...
Given that language is based on mutual understanding as opposed to rules, it is up to vote.

By all rules, "Built like a brick shithouse" shouldn't mean "total babe" either.
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  #16  
Old 07-23-2006, 02:02 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Odd how some UL's have been "reverse engineered" so to speak. Like Aluminum pull tabs and Kidney machines.

There was a UL about saving pull tabs for "minutes on a kidney dialisy machine". This was a complete UL. Later, the Kidney Foundation shugged and began sending in the hundreds of pounds of aluminum so recieved by recyling it. Later, I have heard, that someone actually did start matching donations for pull tabs.
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  #17  
Old 07-23-2006, 04:25 PM
KGS KGS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dpimi
I used to work with one lady and she must've owned the "big book of urban legends" because everything in it happened to her. From the earwigs in her ear to finding the dead body in the hotel room under the bed. If it was an urban legend somehow it happened to her
Reminds me of a story I read once. Guy wakes up in a bathtub filled with ice cubes, with a kidney-shaped scar on his back, and sees a note to call 911. Panicked, he runs out of the house (ignoring the dead body in the living room with a blood-stained message on the wall: "AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN'T TURN ON THE LIGHT?") reaches a pay phone where he pricks his finger on an AIDS-infected needle. Then a chunk of frozen feces, flushed from the toilet of a commercial airplane, lands on his head and kills him.

Funny how some of these urban myths turn out to be true after all. Like the infamous Newlywed Game incident, which Bob Eubanks himself claimed never happened, until video evidence finally came to light. (And if you really want to get nitpicky, she never actually said, "Up the butt, Bob!")
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Old 07-23-2006, 04:37 PM
Rilchiam Rilchiam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KGS
Funny how some of these urban myths turn out to be true after all. Like the infamous Newlywed Game incident, which Bob Eubanks himself claimed never happened, until video evidence finally came to light. (And if you really want to get nitpicky, she never actually said, "Up the butt, Bob!")
But that's what some people in this thread have been getting at. It didn't happen exactly the way the legend said. The focus of the legendary version was someone using AAVE, answering without hesitation, and addressing himself to Eubanks. The video showed a woman, not a man, answering somewhat self-consciously, and using a completely different phrasing. And while some versions of the legend go on to say that Eubanks was flabbergasted, in the video, all four contestants laughed, no one was thrown off the set, and no "hefty fine" (another variable) was levied.

So I'm not surprised Eubanks didn't remember it, because from his POV, it didn't. The legendary version puts him on the spot, while in the video, it was just one of many "oh no she di'nt" moments the show was known for. That's where the legend aspect comes in: changing details to make the story suit someone's agenda. And personally, I wonder if the legend was actually based on nothing, and it's just an odd coincidence that out of thousands of hours of TNG footage, something was unearthed that kinda sorta supports the legend.
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Old 07-23-2006, 04:38 PM
Rilchiam Rilchiam is offline
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Originally Posted by Rilchiam
So I'm not surprised Eubanks didn't remember it, because from his POV, it didn't.
...didn't happen.
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  #20  
Old 07-23-2006, 07:13 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Can I point something out? Occasionally (including here on the SDMB) I see people misusing the term "urban legend" to mean basically "anything that people mistakenly believe." (as in "Is this true or is it an urban legend?") If I understand the term correctly, urban legends have to be little narratives, not just false factoids like "a duck's quack doesn't echo."
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  #21  
Old 07-23-2006, 07:36 PM
Terrifel Terrifel is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A.
A friend insists that by definition an 'urban legend' is false. It were not false it would cease to be an urban legend and become 'urban fact'. He won't budge on this.
I entirely agree that the term 'legend' doesn't automatically mean 'false.' Roberto Clemente has been described as a 'legendary' athlete, but that doesn't mean he never existed. (At least I hope it doesn't, because that would probably affect the value of my autographed picture of him.)

I'm also curious as to whether an 'urban legend' necessarily has to involve a city, by definition. Are there any 'non-urban legends' left these days? Sewer alligators aside, many 'urban legends' seem to have more of a 'suburban' feel to them anyway, as opposed to either entirely 'urban' or 'rural.' I don't regard trick-or-treating anxieties as particularly urban in flavor, for example.
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  #22  
Old 07-23-2006, 09:32 PM
Zoe Zoe is offline
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Dan Norder: Myths and legends (and some but not all folklore) are not at all fiction.
According to a definition given in the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged, any invented story is a myth. It goes on to list fiction as a synomyn.

I guess they have a right to their humble opinion too.

In my own thinking, a legend may or may not be false; a myth is always fictitious.
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  #23  
Old 07-24-2006, 07:00 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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"Urban" in "urban legend" doesn't mean that it's about an event in a city. It means that it's about a modern society, one where most people live in cities. In some cases, an event that's almost exactly like the one described in the urban legend happened. It's still an urban legend. The people who tell the urban legend claim that it happened somewhere that it didn't happen, to someone to whom it didn't happen.
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  #24  
Old 07-24-2006, 08:22 AM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is online now
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#1 "Urban legend" is a technical term in the field of folklore, with definitions that Dan Norder and Danalan have pointed out. Folklorists now, in fact, prefer "contemporary legend." It may or may not be partially true; it must have narrative content; it is never a myth.

#2 "Urban legend" has been popularized as a term meaning "false belief," equal to "myth" (thus <shudder> "Mythbusters" and "urban myth"). In that sense, an urban legend MUST be false, because that's what the term means in common usage.

Since I'm a folklorist, I only ever use #1 and #2 drives me nuts, but equally since I'm not in sole charge of the English language, I have to accept it. (#2 is folk speech...) So in a sense both sides are right, one just has a few years' seniority.

If you think that conflicting definitions will eventually drive each other out, the world "folklore" means both "untrue stuff" and "lore of the people which may or may not be true," and both definitions have been around for more than a century.
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  #25  
Old 07-24-2006, 01:32 PM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is online now
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From the SDSAB report on urban legends:
Quote:
Are urban legends necessarily false? It depends on whom you ask. Take the "Unsolvable Math Problem"--a student solves a problem he sees on the blackboard in class, thinking it's homework, when actually it's a famous example of an unsolved problem. The story turned out to be based on the real experience of George Dantzig while he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Many professional folklorists would insist this isn't an urban legend because it's true, except perhaps in the details--legends, including urban legends, are false by definition; if a story like this is true, it's a sort of anecdote.

Folklorists aren't always consistent in using the term legend, though. Richard Dorson found what he thought was the real-life origin of the "Death Car" (in which an automobile is sold for cheap because the previous owner died and decomposed in it, and it's pervaded with the stench of death). Yet he continued to call the story a legend despite believing it was true.

Today most people who use the phrase urban legend aren't folklorists, and most folklorists avoid the term in their professional writing. Most non-professional aficionados of urban legends would say that urban legends aren't a subset of legends as that word is strictly defined. Rather the term is an omnibus classification that includes certain legends, anecdotes, rumors, hoaxes, cyberlore, xeroxlore, and so on. Some of these wild stories turn out to be true. That's the official position of the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban, commonly known as AFU.
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