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View Full Version : Urban legends - why do some people keep repeating them?


Glory
02-12-2011, 01:26 AM
On another message board I frequent, 2 people have trotted out the "Lemonjello, Orangello" chestnut. One person says their fiance knew them. A separate person says they are a teacher and had these people in their school.

It's exactly the same urban legend we've all heard - down to the silly pronunciations.

"No joke, we once had students named Lemonjello and Orangello (pronounced luh-mohn-jello and or-ohn-jello..."

She got put out when I said it was an urban legend and insisted it was true. I asked her for a scanned yearbook page as proof.

TravisFromOR
02-12-2011, 01:31 AM
Some repeat them to trick stupid people.

Eliahna
02-12-2011, 01:40 AM
As my Dad says: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I suspect these people found the story to be the pinnacle of humour and are repeating it in the first person to give it authenticity so you, too, can share the LOLs.

Covered_In_Bees!
02-12-2011, 01:43 AM
People are stupid.

Kyla
02-12-2011, 02:38 AM
"It's because they're stupid. That's why everybody does everything."

-a great philosopher of our times.

Mean Mr. Mustard
02-12-2011, 09:40 AM
I hear Lemonjello and Orangello - told in all seriousness - about every 6 months or so.

More recently, Le-a* is continually making its way into the conversation with the same earnestness: "It's true! Mary Lou's friend had the girl as a student!!"

I've given up on trying to reason with these folks. People want to believe.


mmm



*pronounced 'Ledasha' because "the dash don't be silent"

gotpasswords
02-12-2011, 11:41 AM
I just searched our HR database (over 424,000 people) and the closest I got was a person who goes by Jelly, (legal name is Angelica) and a small handful of people whose last name is either Orange or Lemon.

No Jello and no Ledasha. :D

Heyoka13
02-12-2011, 11:45 AM
I don't know if there is a selection bias in this observation, but nursing home employees seem particularly susceptible to believing urban legends . . .

Tristan
02-12-2011, 11:50 AM
The Jello brothers was also repeated in Freakanomics, which makes me either question the entire book (which I don't want to, it was brilliant) or that there may be a kernal of truth in there somewhere.

Jenaroph
02-12-2011, 11:54 AM
On another message board I frequent, 2 people have trotted out the "Lemonjello, Orangello" chestnut. One person says their fiance knew them. A separate person says they are a teacher and had these people in their school.

It's exactly the same urban legend we've all heard - down to the silly pronunciations.

"No joke, we once had students named Lemonjello and Orangello (pronounced luh-mohn-jello and or-ohn-jello..."

She got put out when I said it was an urban legend and insisted it was true. I asked her for a scanned yearbook page as proof.
I'm gonna guess it's because they dress up the story they'd heard and believed and thought was funny with the white lie that they'd seen it with their own eyes. Then when you point out that it's an old urban legend, they have to either backpedal and admit in indelible text both that a)they're gullible and b)they're liars, or get defensive.

Dr. Drake
02-12-2011, 12:04 PM
Serious answer? Expressions of folk belief and folk narrative do a lot of things besides convey truth.

They often vent or even just express social tension. The "lemonjello" one addresses American black-vs-white situation obliquely, often without ever naming the subject directly. It can mean anything from "I just don't understand why other people have a different culture from my own, but I'm supposed to pretend we're the same so I can't ask!" to "I'm a closet racist; are you one too?" (I think the latter is uncommon.)

They are a form of entertainment. Wow, isn't that interesting; here's an excuse for me to socialize with you without referring to our work / family / romantic relationship.

Most conversation is a kind of back-and-forth, but the narrator of a narrative, even a short one, has the floor for some uninterrupted speech. Psychologically, it's quite gratifying to the ego. Some people tell true stories, some tell legends.

There are other factors, but basically a large part of it is about the relationship of narrator and audience and the society they live in.

So no, it's not literally true, and I don't really understand people who angrily cling to ignorance rather than admit they might be wrong. But in a broader sense, it is true: people do name their children strange things, some of them sounding quite flip when compared to standard Anglo naming conventions. People who might consider naming a child something unique or creative are coming from a different place than those who insist on a family name or one from the Bible, and that difference can be a kind of a shorthand for all the other differences in values between Us and Them.

Musicat
02-12-2011, 12:06 PM
The Jello brothers was also repeated in Freakanomics, which makes me either question the entire book (which I don't want to, it was brilliant) or that there may be a kernal of truth in there somewhere.Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: If a clock strikes 13, it not only is false, but calls into doubt the other 12.

I think there are some people who just enjoy trading stories for no other reason than just to trade stories. Truth is not a consideration, just an obstacle to be deliberately ignored. I have at least two neighbors who routinely send out glurge, warnings and old urban legends and get upset when I point out that they are spreading rumors, lies and incorrect information. "Why does that matter?" was one response I got.

adhemar
02-12-2011, 12:28 PM
On another message board I frequent, 2 people have trotted out the "Lemonjello, Orangello" chestnut. One person says their fiance knew them. A separate person says they are a teacher and had these people in their school.

It's exactly the same urban legend we've all heard - down to the silly pronunciations.

"No joke, we once had students named Lemonjello and Orangello (pronounced luh-mohn-jello and or-ohn-jello..."

She got put out when I said it was an urban legend and insisted it was true. I asked her for a scanned yearbook page as proof.

there are parents who name their children unusual names. As a social worker I had a Mother who named her son Buick because she heard a commercial for the car company and liked the sound.

My Dad was a teacher and had a student named AfterDella. Her big sister was Della.

Even Snopes says there is kernal of truth with a pitcher whose last name was Lemonjello. They don't discount that someone somewhere may have named thier child after a disease or body part.

WhyNot
02-12-2011, 12:47 PM
Frankly, I think a lot of people just simply forget that their favorite urban legends have been debunked. They remember the fun, funny part, and they remember hearing it somewhere and they remember the laughs they got last time the told it, and they just completely forget the part they didn't want to hear - that it was false.

At least, I know that happens to my friend's cousin's roommate's father, so it must be true! :D

ETA: My grandfather totally went to school with a guy named Harry Balls, though. Showed me a class picture with the names written in by the photographer, back before computers did it.

Musicat
02-12-2011, 01:00 PM
ETA: My grandfather totally went to school with a guy named Harry Balls, though. Showed me a class picture with the names written in by the photographer, back before computers did it.If you will allow us to make a tiny adjustment to the spelling, there really was a Fort Wayne, IN mayor named Harry Baals. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_W._Baals)

adhemar
02-12-2011, 01:00 PM
from this site
http://suburbanbanshee.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/lemonjelo-is-a-real-name/

Search of the US Social Security Death Index:
43 people with the last name Lemongello.
22 people with the last name Limongello.
3 people with the first name Orangelo.
Nobody dead yet named Horangelo.

WhyNot
02-12-2011, 01:07 PM
If you will allow us to make a tiny adjustment to the spelling, there really was a Fort Wayne, IN mayor named Harry Baals. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_W._Baals)

:D I read that recently, there's some sort of uproar about some convention center that may or may not bear his name, right?

Too old to have gone to school with my gramps, though, and his Harry Balls (hee-hee!) was spelled with one a and two l's.

Musicat
02-12-2011, 01:16 PM
:D I read that recently, there's some sort of uproar about some convention center that may or may not bear his name, right?Yes. (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/41480994/ns/us_news-weird_news/) Looks like it won't.

saje
02-12-2011, 01:24 PM
Then there's the one where the new mother is irritated to find that the hospital has named her new baby already (as she can tell by the wristband on the baby), but likes the sound of it so she doesn't change it.

The baby's name was (phonetically, because this is usually a spoken story) F'-MAL-ay.

Which, of course, was Female on the wristband...

I've heard this one from more than a few otherwise intelligent people. :rolleyes:

Peremensoe
02-12-2011, 01:37 PM
^ Also in Freakonomics if I remember correctly.

Maiira
02-12-2011, 01:49 PM
Different kind of urban legend, but for all of those "and the murderer was calling the babysitter from INSIDE THE HOUSE!" or "they got home and discovered A HOOK ON THE DOOR!" stories, I've always heard them as just being scary stories. No one's ever tried to tell me "OH GUESS WHAT THESE ARE ALL TRUE." Because some of them are honest-to-goodness ghost stories, and I don't believe in ghosts.

So for those, the reason why I tell them is because they're fun and creepy, and even if they aren't true, they still give me the willies.

The "orangello, lemonjello" ones are stupid, though.

Lamia
02-12-2011, 02:47 PM
I did a little checking up on Lemonjello and Oranjello myself using the SSDI and Ancestry.com the last time we had a thread on this subject. My results were posted here (http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/showpost.php?p=11589467&postcount=117). Although Lemongello and variant spellings are not unheard of as last names, I was unable to find any record of there ever having been a person in the US with the first name "Lemonjello", "Lemongello", "Oranjello", or "Orangello". I apparently did miss "Orangelo", and I just confirmed that the link posted by adhemar is correct and there are indeed three people by this name listed in the SSDI. (FWIW they were born in 1895, 1911, and 1912.)

It's possible that the real last name "Lemongello" was the grain of truth that inspired the specific Lemonjello/Oranjello legend, but there does not seem to have ever been anyone who named their child after a Jell-O dessert. It may also just be a coincidence that "Lemongello" is a real last name, as there are similar legends about pretentious but ignorant African-American parents giving their children names like "Chlamydia". (I could find no record of any person named "Chlamydia" ever living in the US.) I have no doubt that these all originated as racist jokes about how stupid black people are, but they are repeated innocently by some people who think they're true stories of people with wacky names.

Anyway, while I can understand repeating such a story if one finds it entertaining, I do think it's strange that so many people outright lie about having met the twins Lemonjello and Oranjello. I mean, it's one thing to say you'd heard of people with these names, and another to claim firsthand knowledge of their existence.

Jackmannii
02-12-2011, 04:30 PM
As a social worker I had a Mother who named her son Buick because she heard a commercial for the car company and liked the sound.And he grew up to be a large, old-fashioned boxy-looking guy?

california jobcase
02-12-2011, 05:53 PM
I remember hearing the urban legend about the boy fishing with baby rattlesnakes about 15 years apart from two different guys. Both told it as if it happened recently and seemed to believe it. The reason I remembered the first time is because I was young and it scared me, impressionable youth that I was. I think the scare factor's what keeps that one around.

Since this also seems to be about unusual names now, here's a few for you.

I taught high school biology to twin sisters Lovey and Dovey.

There was a girl at our school whose name was pronounced shuh-mare-uh, but was spelled Chimera. I guess if you make up a name for a kid, you should write it down and check a dictionary first.

Maiira
02-12-2011, 06:12 PM
Oh yeah, my mom's had plenty of unusual names where she works. She works at an elementary school library, and this particular school is a multicultural/environmental science type school.

She told us of the two boys whose first names were Sir and Lord. Which is kinda silly and kinda badass at the same time.

Wendell Wagner
02-12-2011, 06:53 PM
People tell urban legends because they like having their prejudices confirmed. The point of the "Lemonjello" story is to imply that blacks are stupid. People hear the sorts of first names, hardly ever used among white Americans, that black Americans give their children and decide that these names don't just show that blacks and whites in the U.S. have different cultural expectations but that blacks must be stupid to use such names. When these hear the "Lemonjello" story or any of the similar ones in which a black mother uses a word that wasn't intended for a first name as the name for her child, they conclude that they were right and this indeed shows that blacks are stupid. If you'll look through lots of different urban legends you'll see that they consistently confirm some prejudice of the tellers and hearers.

Not a Platypus
02-12-2011, 09:16 PM
Urban legends involving awful names are the only ones I might see being true, because I see 80-150 different names every day for work and there are parents that name their kids godawful stupid things. I can easily imagine someone hearing the original stories and deciding they like one of the names enough to give it to their kid.

Fear Itself
02-12-2011, 09:35 PM
Because their reality is just too damn boring.

adhemar
02-13-2011, 12:01 AM
And he grew up to be a large, old-fashioned boxy-looking guy?

I haven't seen him since he was 3 so I can't say.

You know the funny thing about the Female, Gonnorhea, Lemonjello etc stories is that I can remember my parents and their fellow teachers speaking of these names as kids in their school when I was in grade school as well as others that I don't remember but along the same lines and I was told that the nurses at the Med were supplying such names to Mothers under the influance of the drugs given to them when the baby was born and that this was verified by a relative that was a nurse. This would have been 40+ years ago so these urban legends have been around a long time.

There is also a book a read where the main charcter called herself Baroness Pontalba because her mother had named her Urethra. No real point to saying this but this thread brought it to mind.

Contrapuntal
02-13-2011, 12:17 AM
Asking why people repeat them is kind of like asking why they exist.

Lamia
02-13-2011, 12:36 PM
You know the funny thing about the Female, Gonnorhea, Lemonjello etc stories is that I can remember my parents and their fellow teachers speaking of these names as kids in their school when I was in grade school as well as others that I don't remember but along the same lines and I was told that the nurses at the Med were supplying such names to Mothers under the influance of the drugs given to them when the baby was born and that this was verified by a relative that was a nurse. This would have been 40+ years ago so these urban legends have been around a long time.This type of legend is even older than that -- Snopes (http://snopes.com/racial/language/names.asp) has a print citation from 1917 for an anecdote about a "pickaninny" child named Eczema.

aruvqan
02-13-2011, 01:05 PM
This type of legend is even older than that -- Snopes (http://snopes.com/racial/language/names.asp) has a print citation from 1917 for an anecdote about a "pickaninny" child named Eczema.

Unfortunately I did have a very lovely lady named Latrine at my last job. Luckily everybody called her Trina.

Seriously WTF. I know that some European countries you have to get a kids name approved, we could SERIOUSLY use that service here in the US.

Chessic Sense
02-13-2011, 01:08 PM
My sister married into a pretty dim-witted family. Her husband's OK, but his brothers and sisters are some of the stupidest people I've ever seen. Her husband's nephew is named "Legion". Why? Per the parents: "It's from the bible."

Ummm...mighta wanted to read that passage over again before filling out the birth certificate.

constanze
02-14-2011, 10:13 AM
I heard of a little girl named Sanella (from a swimming class), she was 8-10 years old. However, she was from an African country (Ethiopia, IIRC), so I always thought the name made sense in her native language, and that her parents had no way of knowing that in Germany, Sanella is a type of margarine.

I know that some European countries you have to get a kids name approved, we could SERIOUSLY use that service here in the US.

But o noes, that limits the precious freedom of the parents! You can't limit wonderful freedom in the US! (/sarcasm)

constanze
02-14-2011, 01:08 PM
Here is an interesting take (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/09/jackie-at-the-crossroads.html) from Fred Clark.

eclectic wench
02-14-2011, 07:17 PM
From the Fred Clark link that Constanze posted:

Good Jackie will quickly realize that her co-worker led her astray. The persuasive personal embellishments about the magazine and the cousin must have been outright lies. Good Jackie may have to talk with her co-worker about this, and will trust her less in the future.

See, I'm not sure it's actually as simple as outright lies.

On this other board where I occasionally post, someone whipped out the 'child kidnapped in shopping centre, found in toilets with foreigners cutting its hair off' urban legend, which she posted as something that had OMGjustthatweek!!! happened in a nearby town, to the child of a friend of a sister-in-law (or something like that). There was the predictable chorus of shock and horror, plus a few people asking whether she was sure, since nothing like that had been on the news and it didn't really make that much sense to begin with. She said yes, she was absolutely positive, because she trusts her sister-in-law completely, and sister-in-law trusts her friend completely.

At this point I read the thread and posted the Snopes link.

When the poster went back to her sister-in-law, it turned out that it hadn't actually happened to her friend, it had happened to the friend's friend. I'm willing to bet that, if you asked friend A, she'd say no, it didn't happen to friend B, it happened to B's friend C. Everyone along the way drops the last link off the chain, just for ease of retelling, and all of a sudden you've got a billionth-hand urban legend being presented as something that's just two degrees of separation away. No one sees it as lying: it's just easier to say 'My cousin's friend' than 'My cousin's friend's friend,' and since you know that neither the cousin nor her friend is someone who would just make this stuff up, what's the difference?

I know this doesn't address the original question, but it does touch on the tangential one that came up along the way. Basically, I think a lot of it is sloppiness rather than deliberate lying.

eclectic wench
02-14-2011, 07:23 PM
The point of the "Lemonjello" story is to imply that blacks are stupid.

This is interesting. When I read that story, no race was given (it was just presented as happening in the US), and I assumed the Jello Brothers were either Central American or Italian, because the names sound kind of like Angelo. I thought the point of the story was that recent immigrants can easily miss cultural references and end up sounding like dorks.

Instead, I was the foreigner totally missing a cultural reference. How very meta.

Mean Mr. Mustard
02-14-2011, 08:44 PM
A few other hospital legends, just to bring us up to speed:

A new mother, surname King, named her baby Nosmo because of a sign on the wall.

Abcde (pronounced Ab-si-dee).

Twins, surname Sheets: Beneatha and Betweentha.

Multiple tales of Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Placenta.

Some true ones: A very popular name these days is Neveah ('heaven' spelled backwards). I'm looking forward to the day when I see a kid named Lleh.

Others I've run across: Uneek, Word-Daily, London England, Asma, Jazzhmynn, Calvin Hobbes, iceeheaven (I see heaven), Jaxxon, and Wunderfull.


mmm

Shagnasty
02-14-2011, 08:46 PM
People tell urban legends because they like having their prejudices confirmed. The point of the "Lemonjello" story is to imply that blacks are stupid.

Sort of. I grew up in rural Louisiana where there really are a lot of unusual black names that are just made up. I heard the Lemonjello and and Orangejello story and never claimed to know them but I did know black twins named Peaches and Pumpkin. They were really good basketball players and also boys. I don't know if those were the names on their birth certificate but that is what they went by from early childhood.

Black mothers really did try to outdo one another with creative names back then at least so it doesn't seem impossible for a such a thing to happen. It wasn't completely random though. The mini-series Roots triggered black people to know in a big way that their white sounding names weren't historically appropriate so they started making up African sounding names based on general sound patterns. That became a trend on its own and became a kind of contest to see who could take it to the most extreme levels. Look at school yearbooks from the late 1970's - 1980's and beyond to see this. It isn't a phenomenon created purely through outside prejudice.

Who am I to talk though. My real name is Maverick because my mother liked the TV show.

Wendell Wagner
02-14-2011, 09:57 PM
The point of the "unusual names" urban legends is that the parent giving the baby the unusual name is not trying to be creative. The assumption in these urban legends is that the parent is so stupid and gullible that he or she believes the doctors or nurses in the hospital when they suggest a weird name for the baby just to screw with them or that they are so stupid and ignorant that when they see a word that they don't know the meaning or pronunciation of that they will use an unusual pronunciation of it for their baby. The urban legends never consider the possibility that the parent knows perfectly well how unusual and different the name is and that he or she considers himself to be creative when he or she gives the baby the unusual name.

I've been told (second hand) that the unusual (by middle-class white American standards) names that black Americans often give their children are quite deliberately meant to be creative. The tradition among certain groups of black Americans is that choosing a name that sounds like something that a white American parent of 60 years ago would have chosen for a baby shows that you are kind of boring. Choosing a name that's a little different from any other is supposed to show that you're willing to be different and interesting. On the other hand, all the versions of the "unusual names" urban legends that I've ever heard make the point implicitly that the parent is at least a little dumb.

Projammer
02-14-2011, 10:13 PM
Some repeat them to trick stupid people.And almost everyone likes to think there's someone more stupid than themselves. Some people have to reach down to Orangello's parents because everyone else is above them.

Euphonious Polemic
02-14-2011, 10:16 PM
I heard that people repeat urban legends because there is a virus going around that causes people to lose critical thinking skills, and simply repeat whatever crap they hear.

It's true! My uncle was friends with a guy in the CIA who was tracking this virus as it swept across North America. It was developed by the Russians during the cold war, and got out of the lab by accident.

Lamia
02-14-2011, 10:16 PM
The point of the "unusual names" urban legends is that the parent giving the baby the unusual name is not trying to be creative. The assumption in these urban legends is that the parent is so stupid and gullible that he or she believes the doctors or nurses in the hospital when they suggest a weird name for the baby just to screw with them or that they are so stupid and ignorant that when they see a word that they don't know the meaning or pronunciation of that they will use an unusual pronunciation of it for their baby.I think the point of many of these legends is that the parents are not merely stupid, they're stupid and pretentious. I mean, it doesn't take much intelligence to just name your kid Bob or Susie, but the legendary parent who's both stupid and...well..."uppity" goes for a name like Chlamydia that they think sounds sophisticated but is actually ridiculously inappropriate.

The legendary mother of Lemonjello and Oranjello probably is just meant to be stupid though, since she apparently couldn't think of any names for her babies and just called them after the hospital's dessert of the day.

Maiira
02-15-2011, 01:42 AM
Asma

Nothing strange or quirky about this one. It's an Arabic girl's name meaning something along the lines of "eminent, lofty," or "supreme." I have a coworker with this name, and she pronounces it "ESS-muh."

SevenOfTeemingMillions
02-15-2011, 02:11 AM
It was surfing for info on an urban legend that led me to the Straight Dope site. :)

My friends and I often share urban legends and ghost stories because we enjoy them. But I tend to regret the ghost stories (and movies) when I'm alone at night. :D

Superhal
02-15-2011, 03:12 AM
Imho, there's relatively a very small group of people in the world who think truth is important. Most of them are on these boards.

Mean Mr. Mustard
02-15-2011, 05:48 AM
Let's not fall into the trap of thinking black folks have the market cornered on stupid names.

Personally, I rather call someone Orangello than:

Pilot Inspektor (son of Beth Riesgraf & Jason Lee)

Fifi-Trixibelle (daughter of Paula Yates & Bob Geldof)

Audio Science (son of Shannyn Sossaman & Dallas Clayton)


mmm

saje
02-15-2011, 05:57 AM
When I taught riding lessons (horses) I had ordinary middle class white kids as students named:

England

Paris (England's little bro, and yes it was where each was conceived)

Mystic (last name Powers)

Meadow

and I knew a girl named Hurricane.

Martiju
02-15-2011, 08:06 AM
and I knew a girl named Hurricane.

Bet she was a blast...

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