why are urban legends called "urban"

why are urban legends called “urban”–why not just “legend” ?

Are urban city dwellers smarter than country dwellers?
The word “urbane” might imply so, but it seems to me that rumors spread faster in cities (and on the internet) than in less-populated countryside.

Farmers(in previous generations) may not have been as formally educated, but they usually have a lot of common sense.
And all of the crystal ball-Fortune Tellers-palm readers-psychic goofballs that I’ve ever seen have been city dwellers. (Los Angeles seems to be their capital)

They’re called “urban legends” because Pope Urban I was so notorious for starting such rumors.

Jan Brunvand is credited with coining the term, but I don’t how–or for a fact that he did–arrive at that specific term.

I think the idea was to differentiate modern legends from the folk tales that used to be passed from generation to generation, or from neighbor to neighbor, in olden times.

A century ago, everybody in a small farming village knew the local legends (of a ghost that supposedly haunted a local house, or a monster that supposedly wandered the nearby forest). Today, EVERYBODY in American knows the story of the Kentucky Fried Rat and the homicidal maniac who left his hook in the car door.

I think what makes an urban legend is that…

  1. It’s a fairly modern story.
  2. It’s spread like wildfire, due to speed of modern communication media.

Since I’m having to re-post this due to hamsters eating my previous post, I’ll trim it down.

This site covers the OP in their second “Infrequently Asked Question”.

And I’m either going to report Philosophocles to Snopes, or start spreading that story. :slight_smile: