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Urban Legends

  • By: Bill Ellis
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

An urban legend, in general, is an account of a bizarre occurrence that is purported to have taken place in the informant’s community, often happening to a friend of the narrator’s friend. Some such stories are based on true events, though the details are typically exaggerated and the events streamlined through multiple tellings. But in practice, most urban legends turn out to be well-traveled apocryphal stories that have been told in a variety of locations with variant details. So the term urban legend is often used in popular speech to refer to a “hoax” or untrue story. While many such stories relate horrifying or threatening events, such as encounters with ghosts or sinister criminals, a large number are intended to be humorous or satirical in ...

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