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Subject: alt.folklore.urban Frequently Asked Questions [Part 1 of 5]
This article was archived around: 7 Feb 1997 06:57:55 GMT
6 February 1997
Official Usenet Alt.Folklore.Urban Frequently Posted Legends
"I will set down a tale...it may be history it may
be only a legend, a tradition. It may have
happened, it may not have happened. But it could
-- Mark Twain [via Christopher Neufeld]
TABLE OF CONTENTS TO THIS AND THE OTHER PARTS OF THE FAQ LIST
Part 1 - Introduction to the newsgroup and the FAQ list.
PART 2 - General administrative and other notes on urban
legends (ULs) and the newsgroup (e.g., bait for
PART 3 - Major Categories of ULs Covered in the FAQ:
PART 4 - Major Categories of ULs Covered in the FAQ
PART 5 - Credits and some references
1. INTRODUCTION TO THE FAQ POSTINGS FOR AFU:
The newsgroup alt.folklore.urban (AFU) is devoted to the
discussion and debunking of urban legends and other related
issues. This is Part I of the Frequently Asked Questions/
Frequently Posted Legends list for AFU.
The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list for alt.folklore.urban
is posted approximately twice a month to the alt.folklore.urban,
news.answers, and alt.answers newsgroups with an expiration date
approximately one month from the date of posting. If the FAQ is
not available on AFU at your site, check the other newsgroups
The five part FAQ for alt.folklore.urban is also available
via anonymous ftp at rtfm.mit.edu. You can retrieve them by
grabbing the following files:
Or heck, just do:
If you do not have anonymous ftp access, rtfm.mit.edu can
send the FAQ to you via email. Send an e-mail message to
firstname.lastname@example.org, subject ignored, and the body
The FAQ and various sundry information are also available via
anonymous ftp from www.urbanlegends.com. Thanks to Jason
Heimbaugh for making this happen.
There is a HTML version of the FAQ at:
Sean Willard has also done up a wonderful version of the FAQ which you
with links to cathouse.org at:
For you folks in the Old World, check out Arthur Goldstruck's
(South African, geddit?) site at http://www.legends.org.za/arthur.
2. INTRODUCTION TO THE NEWSGROUP AFU
This is alt.folklore.urban -- the newsgroup where nonsense is revered
as an artform, and debunking has been taken to new heights.
The group has broadened its god-given mandate from a place for
discussing urban legends (ULs) to a place for confirming or disproving
beliefs and facts of all kinds, including origin of vernacular ("The
whole nine yards", "Sniping like a bald giraffe"), common scientific
fallacies, obscure points of history, stories of pranks, the location
of Foucault's pendulums, Why "Space 1999" was better than "Star Trek:
TOS," "What types of salmon are there?" and so on. In other words,
it's a great place to get a reality check on anything that "a friend"
told you, or to compare notes about odd things. Bear in mind though
that the FAQ tries, in its own confused way, to focus more on UL
As a result, you will find items in the classic urban legend mold
(e.g., food contamination legends), as well as old wives tales, and
other oddball facts, trivia, and stories.
An urban legend:
* appears mysteriously and spreads spontaneously in varying
* contains elements of humor or horror (the horror often
"punishes" someone who flouts society's conventions).
* makes good storytelling.
* does NOT have to be false, although most are. ULs often
have a basis in fact, but it's their life after-the-fact
(particularly in reference to the second and third points)
that gives them particular interest.
Urban folklore is not restricted to events that supposedly
happened in urban areas. As Jan Brunvand notes in _The Baby
Train_, "... these stories reflect urban life and attitudes,
even if they're not told told exclusively about things that
supposedly happened in big cities.
As far as etymology is concerned, Jan Brunvand credits the
noted folklorist Richard Dorson with coining the term "urban
legend" (after initially referring to them as "urban belief
tales"). The first use of the term (by Dorson) that Brunvand
has found was in a book of essays edited by Tristram Potter
Coffin entitled _Our Living Traditions_ published in 1968.
RELIGION AND URBAN LEGENDS
Issues of religious faith per se, while occasionally
fitting the mode of legends are not really appropriate for
urban legend discussion. They involve a dimension beyond
the immediate concerns of urban legends (though it may be
reasonably argued that they arise out of the same sorts
of human concerns). Similarly, issues of mythology (a la
Joseph Campbell or Mircea Eliade, et al.) while potentially
fascinating on their own merits, are not really relevant for
discussion in an urban legends newsgroup either.
To the extent their discussion sheds insights into popular
urban legends, no problem. Otherwise, it really belongs in
talk.religion.misc or some other newsgroup.
Religion (of whatever stripe) is a significant and real
institution in the lives of many peoples. As a result,
it can and will give rise to urban legends and to this
extent, its discussion is appropriate for AFU. The
veracity of the institution is irrelevant since its
influence is undeniable.
You can argue the veracity of the tenets of any religion
you want, however that argument doesn't belong in AFU.
The Frequently Asked Questions List has been maintained by Terry
Chan since July 1991. Its inception and spirit was due to Peter
van der Linden in February 1991.
Copyright (c) 1997, Terry Chan and Peter van der Linden.
All Rights Reserved. Permission for personal, educational or non-
profit use is granted provided this this copyright and notice are
included in its entirety and remains unaltered. All other uses
must receive prior permission in writing from both Terry Chan (at
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org) and Peter van
der Linden (at email@example.com).
Licensing terms on request.
"Ah, the life of a frog, that's the life for me."