Urban legends - why do some people keep repeating them?

On another message board I frequent, 2 people have trotted out the “Lemonjello, Orangello” chestnut. One person says their fiance knew them. A separate person says they are a teacher and had these people in their school.

It’s exactly the same urban legend we’ve all heard - down to the silly pronunciations.

“No joke, we once had students named Lemonjello and Orangello (pronounced luh-mohn-jello and or-ohn-jello…”

She got put out when I said it was an urban legend and insisted it was true. I asked her for a scanned yearbook page as proof.

Some repeat them to trick stupid people.

As my Dad says: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I suspect these people found the story to be the pinnacle of humour and are repeating it in the first person to give it authenticity so you, too, can share the LOLs.

People are stupid.

“It’s because they’re stupid. That’s why everybody does everything.”

-a great philosopher of our times.

I hear Lemonjello and Orangello - told in all seriousness - about every 6 months or so.

More recently, Le-a* is continually making its way into the conversation with the same earnestness: “It’s true! Mary Lou’s friend had the girl as a student!!”

I’ve given up on trying to reason with these folks. People want to believe.

*pronounced ‘Ledasha’ because “the dash don’t be silent”

I just searched our HR database (over 424,000 people) and the closest I got was a person who goes by Jelly, (legal name is Angelica) and a small handful of people whose last name is either Orange or Lemon.

No Jello and no Ledasha. :smiley:

I don’t know if there is a selection bias in this observation, but nursing home employees seem particularly susceptible to believing urban legends . . .

The Jello brothers was also repeated in Freakanomics, which makes me either question the entire book (which I don’t want to, it was brilliant) or that there may be a kernal of truth in there somewhere.

I’m gonna guess it’s because they dress up the story they’d heard and believed and thought was funny with the white lie that they’d seen it with their own eyes. Then when you point out that it’s an old urban legend, they have to either backpedal and admit in indelible text both that a)they’re gullible and b)they’re liars, or get defensive.

Serious answer? Expressions of folk belief and folk narrative do a lot of things besides convey truth.

They often vent or even just express social tension. The “lemonjello” one addresses American black-vs-white situation obliquely, often without ever naming the subject directly. It can mean anything from “I just don’t understand why other people have a different culture from my own, but I’m supposed to pretend we’re the same so I can’t ask!” to “I’m a closet racist; are you one too?” (I think the latter is uncommon.)

They are a form of entertainment. Wow, isn’t that interesting; here’s an excuse for me to socialize with you without referring to our work / family / romantic relationship.

Most conversation is a kind of back-and-forth, but the narrator of a narrative, even a short one, has the floor for some uninterrupted speech. Psychologically, it’s quite gratifying to the ego. Some people tell true stories, some tell legends.

There are other factors, but basically a large part of it is about the relationship of narrator and audience and the society they live in.

So no, it’s not literally true, and I don’t really understand people who angrily cling to ignorance rather than admit they might be wrong. But in a broader sense, it is true: people do name their children strange things, some of them sounding quite flip when compared to standard Anglo naming conventions. People who might consider naming a child something unique or creative are coming from a different place than those who insist on a family name or one from the Bible, and that difference can be a kind of a shorthand for all the other differences in values between Us and Them.

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: If a clock strikes 13, it not only is false, but calls into doubt the other 12.

I think there are some people who just enjoy trading stories for no other reason than just to trade stories. Truth is not a consideration, just an obstacle to be deliberately ignored. I have at least two neighbors who routinely send out glurge, warnings and old urban legends and get upset when I point out that they are spreading rumors, lies and incorrect information. “Why does that matter?” was one response I got.

there are parents who name their children unusual names. As a social worker I had a Mother who named her son Buick because she heard a commercial for the car company and liked the sound.

My Dad was a teacher and had a student named AfterDella. Her big sister was Della.

Even Snopes says there is kernal of truth with a pitcher whose last name was Lemonjello. They don’t discount that someone somewhere may have named thier child after a disease or body part.

Frankly, I think a lot of people just simply *forget *that their favorite urban legends have been debunked. They remember the fun, funny part, and they remember hearing it somewhere and they remember the laughs they got last time the told it, and they just completely forget the part they didn’t want to hear - that it was false.

At least, I know that happens to my friend’s cousin’s roommate’s father, so it must be true! :smiley:

ETA: My grandfather totally went to school with a guy named Harry Balls, though. Showed me a class picture with the names written in by the photographer, back before computers did it.

If you will allow us to make a tiny adjustment to the spelling, there really was a Fort Wayne, IN mayor named Harry Baals.

from this site

Search of the US Social Security Death Index:
43 people with the last name Lemongello.
22 people with the last name Limongello.
3 people with the first name Orangelo.
Nobody dead yet named Horangelo.

:smiley: I read that recently, there’s some sort of uproar about some convention center that may or may not bear his name, right?

Too old to have gone to school with my gramps, though, and his Harry Balls (hee-hee!) was spelled with one a and two l’s.

Yes. Looks like it won’t.

Then there’s the one where the new mother is irritated to find that the hospital has named her new baby already (as she can tell by the wristband on the baby), but likes the sound of it so she doesn’t change it.

The baby’s name was (phonetically, because this is usually a spoken story) F’-MAL-ay.

Which, of course, was Female on the wristband…

I’ve heard this one from more than a few otherwise intelligent people. :rolleyes:

^ Also in Freakonomics if I remember correctly.