Video:How to Spot an Urban Legendwith Jonathon E. Stewart
Sometimes telling the difference between a real story and an urban legend can be tricky. Here are a few sure fire tips on making the distinction.See Transcript
Transcript:How to Spot an Urban LegendGot a friend of a friend who didn’t even know she was pregnant until delivering her baby in a McDonald’s parking lot? How about a third cousin whose next door neighbor went out for drinks and woke up in a bathtub of ice one kidney shy? We’ve all heard ‘em, probably even perpetuated ‘em -- wittingly or not -- but here’s how you spot ‘em: urban legends.
What Are Urban Legends?Urban legends are fabricated stories that can be spread by word of mouth, e-mail, and even popular culture itself, and many times the line between truth and fiction can be pretty thin.
Because let’s face it, we all love a great story, and if it’s supposedly real, well that usually makes a great story even better. Unless of course my Uncle Bill is telling it, in which case it just goes on and on and on…
Too Perfect to be TrueTip One: If the story in question sounds like a well-crafted tale with a beginning, middle, and end - or some sort of surprising or frightening or humorous punch line - it’s probably an urban legend. And if the main character of the story is a distant relative or loosely affiliated friend -- anyone that’s just far enough removed as to be tough to pin down -- it’s probably an urban legend.
Heard It BeforeTip Two: If you’ve heard the story before, or if the details vary only slightly from another story with a similar gist, it’s probably a product of the rumor mill as well. It’s like that old game, “telephone” where you might start with a phrase like, “never feed animals at the zoo before sunrise” and after whispering it down the line you end up with, “that Jonathon Stewart plays a mean trombone.” Urban legend.
Do Some Online ResearchTip Three: When in doubt, do your research. If something about a story seems too good, too funny, too sad, or too frightening to be true, or if it just seems a little fishy, hop online and check it out. Sites like urban legends.about.com chronicle these stories as they circulate, and evaluate their truthfulness in detail.
So next time your co-worker tells you about her PTA friend’s boss’s autistic son who locked a short census worker in the closet thinking he was a troll, you can just smile and nod and ask her if she heard about Lady Gaga amputating her leg as a fashion statement. I’m Jonathon Stewart with About.com.
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