Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Old memories of high school

Before we began the official class session today, we had a small conversation and it brought up the interesting topic of hearing phrases said by people. The example in class had to do with "being thrown under a bus." I remember being in high school and I was always the last person to catch on to any phrase or term that other people used. One term that has always bothered me is the word, hook-up. I once had a speaker at my school talk about this and how the word or phrase for making love have changed over time. Common phrases heard throughout time were "Romancing," "Making love," "Making whoopie" and now hooking-up. Hook-up for me just sounds so mechanical, it reminds me of plane engines connecting to refuel. It's not the best example, but in no way when I first came across this term that it meant making love. It's used in so many contexts to, from kissing to sexual intercourse. Actually, after some research, there is a collection of essays by Tom Wolfe called "Hooking Up." Here is a hyperlink to the first few paragraphs:

It is something you never really think about, you come to know it and you hear it over and over. Now I just constantly think about other phrases that have become so commonplace in our generation's society today.

Anybody else have the same thoughts?


I was bored the other day and watching this silly TV show about dragons. Anyways, the narrator said something to the effect that dragon myths are found universally throughout the world. I thought that was curious so I looked it up and found that throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, and Meso-America there are similar myths of dragons. You can see the various cultural variations of this kind of myth at wiki here: Http://

does anybody have any idea why these stories are found in such different, un-connected, cultural contexts? In other words why do humans have the need for what basically amounts to monster stories? It seems in Christian Europe they were at least in part manifestations of evil and metaphorical in the fact humans slayed the beasts. Any thoughts?

What about nation building w/ no identifiable group?

The Nationalism Project website has an article "False Opposites in Nationalism:
An Examination of the Dichotomy of Civic Nationalism and Ethnic Nationalism in Modern Europe" by Nikolas. She argues that ethnic nationalism and civic nationalism aren't as dichotomous as they are usually thought to be. Instead she posits that they are "collaborative" in forming National Identity. I'm not that interested in the point she's making about the relationship between ethnic and civic nationalism, but it got me thinking about the basic requirements of any sub category of national identity. There has to be some basis for constructing a national identity. How do the first components of the equation become available as a basis for national identity building?

Fact or Fiction is another resource that tirelessly works on validating hoaxes and email rumors.

The story "Graduating Student Sneezes So Fellow Students Can Say "God Bless you" at Graduation Where Prayer was Prohibited" is -TRUE!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Final Exam Legend

I've heard this a couple of times, but told as doubtful story. You probably have heard it, too.
It goes like this:

Professor is giving final exam in large lecture class, and when time is up, he tells students to stop writing. One particular student keeps writing. The professor notices and says again more loudly that students are to stop writing. Everyone has stopped except for that one student who keeps on writing. The professor starts to collect the exams and warns that he will not except the work of anyone still writing. The professor has all the exams in his hands when the student who had kept writing comes up to him and says, "Do you know who I am? The professor says, "No." The student says, "Good." And sticks his paper in the middle of the stack of papers the professor is holding and walks away.

A variation I have heard has the student not saying anything at all, just sticking the paper into the stack, knowing that the professor would not know who he is. Another variation has the student shuffling the papers as the professor is watching.

The reason I think this story is popular is that it speaks against large, anonymous classes. It also has the student tricking the professor, which we all imagine would be fun to do.

Snopes describes old wives tale about wild birds has info about an interesting wives tale pertaining to wild birds flying into houses. The tale follows that if a wild bird flies into your home it's an omen of bad luck or even death. There have been some very big names associated with the tale. According to Lucille Ball strongly believed in the tale. Apparently she stripped very expensive wall paper front he front of her house because she discovered it depicted images of birds. Go to the link to find out more about the tale and why Lucille Ball was so afraid of the legend.


Monday, May 29, 2006

Not for the weak-stomached.... (apologies!!)

Okay this one is flat-out NASTY, but it is honestly something I've heard through the grapevine and wondered about. I was just watching some Dave Chappelle DVDs and came across the now-infamous R. Kelly "I Want to Piss On You" music video. A couple years ago, R. Kelly was charged with child pornography and over 70 counts of soliciting a minor after a tape of him with a 14-year-old girl had surfaced. There was reportedly no actual sexual intercourse between the two, but there were rumors of another sickening act on the tape; apparently R. Kelly is shown urinating on the girl (as some sort of erotica??!) !!??! The video circulated the internet-- although I have never seen it personally, I have heard the rumors and watched Dave Chappelle's hilarious rendition of the whole situation.
That's just gross. It was hugley publicized, and I have a feeling that for years to come, people won't be able to forget the story.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Death of the Marlboro Man

In April, my roommate and I went to see the film Thank You For Smoking, a satirical comedy portraying Big Tobacco. At one point in the film, Big Tobacco lobbyist Nick Naylor, the protagonist of the film, visits the ranch of the original Marlboro man, Lorne Lutch, in order to bribe him into remaining silent about his lung cancer which had been caused by smoking.

As I explored today I noticed the legend of the death of the original Marlboro man and was immediately reminded of Thank You For Smoking. There apparently have been several Marlboro Men over the years, two of which have allegedly died from lung cancer: Wayne McLaren and David McLean. I find it easy to believe that men who were paid to smoke and pose with cigarettes (as we know full well now how bad cigarettes are for us) would die of lung cancer, therefore displaying why this urban legend was so widespread. According to, this urban legend is not an urban legend, but actually the truth. McLaren died from lung cancer in 1992 at the age of 51 and McLean died three years later at the age of 73. Both men claimed to have been addicted to cigarettes and were unable to quit; in fact, Phillip Morris (the Big Tobacco firm that hired them as spokesmodels) sent them numerous packs of cigarettes over the years. McLaren, McLean and their families believed that their lung cancer and subsequent deaths were caused by their addiction to cigarettes.

To read more about it, visit this link!


I was at a wedding the other day, and I was wondering if anyone knows where the idea that the groom cannot see the bride on her wedding day until the actual ceremony came from. Maybe it goes back to the days where marriages were arranged, or when the two spouses were expected to be pure and not have previous sexual relations.

I looked this up online and could not find anything other then this is an invented tradition over time, and that there is no proof that seeing your bride on the day of your wedding (before the ceremony) will cause a "bad" marriage.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


I don't like fast food places. The thought of eating at Wendy's and McDonald's really turns my stomach. But I hadn't really ever stopped to think about why that is until just recently. I was watching TV and a McDonald's commercial came on that reminded me of a rumor I'd heard way back in elementary school that has stuck with me to this day. I can only guess that this rumor is the reason I still don't like fast food... All I remember is being at a McDonald's with some friends and one of them was looking at my hamburger and said, "Don't you know what that's made of? It's squirrel meat!!" I was disgusted and asked how she knew and she said her older brother had told her. And her older brother knew everything. Ever since then, I won't eat a hamburger from a fast food place.

I guess it could be that people just like to make fun of big, prosperous corporations, or to try and deter from their success by making things up. Although they are just stories, rumors like this really do affect people (I am a case in point).

Here's a Wikipedia link to some other McDonlad's ingredient stories:'s_urban_legends

The Fourth Of July as an Invented Tradition

As I said in class I did my paper on the Fourth of July as an invented tradition, that has gotten reinvented over time.

Here are some facts I Found:

The Fourth of July was surprisingly not declared a legal holiday until 1941

The First Independence Day celebration took place not on the Fourth but on July 8, 1776 (Fireworks were not present)

Until 1783 the city of Boston, MA commemorated Independence Day on March 5th the date of the Boston Massacre.

Fireworks did not come to the United States until the mid 19th Century, and therefore were not used for the first 100 years of the nations birth.

The "Star-Spangled Banner"- the national anthem of the US- was written by Francis Scott Key and set to the tune of an English Drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven" by a British composer John Stafford Smith (Defeating the purpose of the national anthem as being different from that of England) and did not get approved by act of Congress until March 3, 1931

"America the beautiful" was not published until July 4, 1895

"The Stars and Stripes forever" was written by John Phillip Sousa in 1897 and now has become a fixture in every fourth of July parade

The American Flag was not sewed by Betsey Ross. This is a myth produced to possibly explain a woman's role in the new Nation or to possibly romanticize the creation of the American Flag as the symbol of America.

Also the American Flag as changed over time to incorporate new states.

In 1942 Congress adopted certain uniform codes for displaying the national flag, hence, how the flag was displayed in 1776 is different from how it is displayed today.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ring around the Rosie

I specifically remember when I was taking a tour of a British museum as a child being shown a statute (clad with lyrics of a nursery rhyme) of children holding hands and skipping around in a circle. Our guide told us that this piece of art was created to honor the children lost during the Black Plague and was entitled something along the lines of "Ring Around the Rosie". We were told that the synonymous nursery rhyme discusses the Black Plague. I was surprised to discover that the artist, guide, and museum were wrong--in fact, Ring Around the Rosie has nothing to do with the Plague! According to, Ring Around the Rosie is simply a nonsensical nursery rhyme. Due to the fact that the rhyme has no noted origin or true meaning, people decided to create a meaning for it and some did so by associating it with the Plague. It is also highly unlikely that this rhyme was penned during the time of the Plague because it first appeared in writing in 1881, hundreds of years after the Plague had diminished-- it would be odd for a rhyme such as this to have been constantly recited during those times and yet no one thought to write it down.

Read more about Ring Around the Rosie below!


David Copperfield, eat your heart out (you're right; this has absolutely nothing to do with urban legends or this class).

Have a good weekend!

Straight Dope LInk

I'm sure many of you have favorite ways to track down urban legends and weird bits of trivia (saw the posting for One of my favorites is the "Straight Dope" -- the same one in the City Paper. It might also be a good place to get ideas about papers.

Some topics from their classics section:
Why do pigeons bob their heads?
Why do people say "Jesus H. Christ"?
What is the sound of one hand clapping?
If all one billion Chinese jumped at once, would the earth be thrown out of its orbit?
Is it true about Catherine the Great and the horse?
Why do wintergreen Life Savers spark when crunched?
Do bathtubs drain counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, clockwise in the southern?
Why does Heinz ketchup say "57 varieties"? I only see one variety
What are the nine Eskimo words for snow?
What are the REAL lyrics to "Louie Louie"?
Why isn't there a Channel One on TV?
Did a French vaudeville star once specialize in trained flatulence?

15 mins with no teacher= time to peace it.

Since middle school I have consistently heard the myth that if a teacher doesn't show up for class by a certain time, game over, the kids can leave. 15 min is usually the grace period allotted for teachers to arrive to class. Obviously this is a myth. The interesting thing I see in this myth is the desire to turn the tables on the teacher. Students are often penalized for showing up late for class and suspended for not showing up at all. The tardiness of a teacher would ideally allow students to run around the campus and do whatever they wish. It would be the teacher's fault since you can never leave kids to their own devices. Consequently the teacher would get in trouble with the administration and the students would have had a blast. Another component of the myth is that it shows how teachers are not people--in the eyes of students. It is hard for students to see their instructors as human beings with a life of their own. What could the teacher possibly be doing- other than teaching this class.

Good Dog

urban myth i read the other day...
woman brings her dog to the vet because the dog's throat is being blocked by something...the vet says it may take a while to remove whatever is obstructing the dog's breathing, and that she should go home and wait for him to call her...she barely gets home, and the vet calls her; frantically telling her to get out of her house and wait for him to get there...he later arrives with the police, explaining to her that the dog had 2 fingers in its throat...the police searched the house and found an escaped convict nursing his finger wounds...more urban legends like this at...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

La Cucaracha! La Cucaracha!

Most people do not think twice about stopping by a fastfood drive-thru for a quick bite to eat. However, some might think twice about what food they choose to eat and which fastfood restaurant they decide to frequent. I asked myself those very same questionstoday when I decided to grab somthing to eat on my way to picking up mother up from the Metro station. I told myself that whatever I was going to eat would definitely NOT be Taco Bell, but then I had to remember the reason why. I finally realized that i had not eaten Taco Bell in several years primarily because of a story that I had been told about Taco Bell's meat products and cockroach eggs. When i was in elementary school a friend of mine told me a story of an awful experience one of her friends had had with Taco Bell. She told me that her friend had eaten a taco and the next day she woke up to a swollen and achy mouth. After several days the swelling and the pain got worse. The girl finally decided to go to the doctor and she was told that a nest of cockroach eggs had been laid in her taco and were now being harvested in her mouth! Has anyone else heard this story or disturbing stories about any other fast-food chains and the ingredients used in their food products?

Candy Canes

I'm writing my paper on the legends associated with the red and white peppermint flavored candy canes distributed during holiday times. One legend that I will focus on reveals the so-told origin of the candy. The legend goes that an Indiana candy maker created this candy to have various symbolic meanings including the J shape it makes when held upside-down denoting Jesus, the red stripe representing His blood, and the white underneath symbolized purity. Has anyone heard this or something different? Also did anyone experience traditions at Christmas associated with or based around candy canes? thanks!

here is the link to the story (told better than above).

The Five-Second Rule

I'm writing my first paper on the five-second rule which says that you have five seconds to eat food that is dropped on the floor before it becomes contaminated. A lot of people I know live by this rule even though it isn't valid. One interesting fact I found was that women are more likely than men to eat off of the floor. I was pretty surprised at this because in my experience it is the other way around. I'm still trying to figure out reasons for this and so far I haven't had much luck. Is this fact a surprise to anyone else?

Your Family's Tartan Sett

In keeping with the tartan theme, I found this neat website that allows you to see what type of plaid your ancestors wore. The site gives brief descriptions of Irish tartans and their history. Just type in your surname to view the swatches. The homepage also gives a brief history of the tartan.

Car Sold to Spite Husband

My favorite urban legend is the story that goes something like this: A man (or woman) sees an ad in the paper for an incredible deal on a car. The car is usually something outrageous like a Lamborgini or vintage Thunderbird, but it is being sold for a pittance, like $50 bucks. The person who sees the ad does not believe it, but calls the person anyway, maybe to tell them that it is a typo or something like that. Well incrediby it turns out that the seller is really giving it away at that price to spite her husband in a divorce settlement that says that the divorcing party is entitled to half of the car's sales each.

I've heard this story a few times with variations. Sometimes the price of the car is not so ludicrous-- I think I even heard the story once or twice involving the sale of a house at a ridiculously low price.

I searched the web for a little while to see if it was posted anywhere, but did not see it. I thought it would be easy to find. The closest I found was a similar story about a car being sold at a low price by the family of a dead war veteran. has one version:

Las Vegas Has Their Share

There is this TV show called Las Vegas ( on nbc I think). I'm not quite sure exactly what kind of a show it is, whether it is a crime show or a night-time soap opera of sorts. It is supposed to be a behind-the-scenes look at casinos. But anyway, I found myself watching this show of undetermined interest to me a couple of weeks ago and the story line featured a hotel guest being knocked out and waking up in a bathtub of ice. There was a note on the mirror saying "call 911." Sound familiar? Yes sir, his kidney had been removed. The cool thing about the show and the story was that someone was trying to play on the urban legend and hold the casino responsible and extort money from them. But our heroes were too clever and they foiled the scheme.
Here is a link to the show synopsis:

What was also funny was that I ran across the website, a travel site, and they had posted their top 10 Vegas urban legends.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ahhhh! Spider eggs!

An urban legend that I heard a few times when I was in elementary school played on the common fear of spiders. The story went as follows: "One day a girl went to sleep and there was a spider on her pillow. The spider bit her on the cheek and subsequently laid eggs in the same spot. The girl wakes up the next day and sees a red bump on her cheek and just assumes it is a blemish. Two weeks later, in the middle of class, the red bump bursts open and lots of tiny spiders swarm out onto her face!"
This urban legend doesn't really seem that believable but because it involved a fear that I held, I wasn't able to discount it and throughout my younger years I made sure to check under my pillow before I went to sleep. It could be that this urban legend was just created to take advantage of a common fear and to scare little children but it could also reflect on the general fear of the loss of control that comes when we are asleep (we are powerless to defend ourselves from outside threats).

Hollywood's Identity Theft

During the latter half of the spring semester, I wrote a paper for my University Writing class. The topic was about the Roman Empire, specifically, the movie Gladiator and its historical accuracies and inaccuracies. I’m not sure if anyone was aware, but in my research, director Ridley Scott had a vision of America when he collaborated with writer David H. Franzoni. The dream was to show the glory of America, but aim to show it by using Eric Hobsbawm’s idea of “invented traditions”. I’ve pasted a paragraph of my paper below just to give you a quick idea of what the paper touches on.

There is a chapter within the book The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media where they mention “Projecting Ancient Rome,” a chapter which incorporates strong examples of the many films made to portray Rome through their techniques. There is a term by historian Eric Hobsbawm called “invented traditions”.[1] These “traditions”, now seen more frequently in historical films as noted by Hobsbawm attempts to establish modern communities such as the United States to suit themselves with an appropriate historical past like the Roman Empire. Furthermore, for these traditions to relay credibility there must be elements of continuity displayed in the past that are seen in the present.[2] “Being aware of this historical continuity serves to enhance a communal identity. By tracing its origins back into the past, a nation could validate its claims to power, property and international prestige”.[3]
To fully understand my claim that the Roman Empire and America have unique, continuous ideals embedded in each culture, an appropriate film that displays a valid correlation must be accounted for. Thus, by looking at the representation of Rome, we can then look to America to see what this past empire may have contributed to this present empire. The best known epic in the recent past to deliver this idea is the Academy Award-winning film Gladiator. This movie rises above all others because almost all other epic films of this category take place in the past, and keep you in the past, while Gladiator is able to show various themes relevant to both The Roman Empire and America.
American audiences respond well to Gladiator because it portrays human nature and instinct common to both Ancient Rome and America today. There is a familiar sense in the film, something American audiences can relate to. Certainly the idea of the whole population being distracted by entertainment, causing them to forget the larger more serious issues is something that can be seen then and now. The movie increases our enthusiasm for sport, even blood sport. The film’s directors and producers created these ideas intentionally to further question, “Could we [Americans] be like these guys [the Romans]”?[4] According to them, we can be. Furthermore, our desire for the brutality of their fighting seems alien to us, but beneath, it is a human instinct we dare not indulge in.[5]

Please let me know here on the web-blog or in class if you have any questions.

[1] Maria Wyke, “Projecting Ancient Rome” in The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media, eds. Marcia Landy (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001), 125-142
2 Ibid, 125
3 Ibid, 125
4 Ibid, 126
5 Andrew Wallace, interview by DreamWorks Home Entertainment, Gladiator, Audio Commentary, 2000
6 Kathleen Coleman, interview by DreamWorks Home Entertainment, Gladiator, Audio Commentary, 2000

What kind of story?

During the first few classes, I've found myself wondering what distinguishes all the different types of stories we hear throughout our lifetime.There are a lot of ways to tell a story, and I started listing as many types as I could think of, and the list was pretty long: folklore, urban legends, parables, tales, rumors, gossip, hearsay, myths... the list goes on and on. But I found this website is helpful in sort of differentiating the many types of stories out there:

"Love Rollercoaster"

Has anybody heard the rumor about the 1970's disco song "Love Rollercoaster" having a scream of a woman being murdered in the background? I was never sure if it was true or not but it turns out that it definitely is just a made up urban legend. You can see more on this here, including an audio of the portion in question:


In case some of you haven't had the pleasure of encountering the work of Barbara and David P. Mikkelson on, I highly recommend taking a look. While it doesn't get everything right every time, this website is an indispensable place to look when you hear those stories that just don't sound right or receive the latest e-mail warning.

Happy reading!