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Modern Legends

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Rosie | 10:00 UK time, Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Olga, I enjoyed reading your blog - I didn't know about the Polish version of Robin Hood who uses an axe as a weapon! Your description of legendary heroes made me think about modern legends in society. Have you ever heard of an urban legend - or contemporary legend? This is a story which circulates as if were true, but which isn't based on solid proof or evidence. No one is sure where these stories come from but they are passed around until everyone seems to know about them! Even though they are called 'urban', this doesn't mean they are related to cities. Here are some examples of urban legends I've heard:

  • In England, a pregnant woman can urinate anywhere she wants: even in a policeman's helmet is she asks him nicely!
  • Eskimos have many many words for 'snow'.
  • There are alligators in the sewers of New York.
  • Paul McCartney (from The Beatles) died in the 60s and was replaced by a look-alike. Fans of The Beatles claimed that there were clues to prove this theory in the rock band's music and album covers: for example, some people found hidden messages in a song played backwards!
  • When you go travelling, you need to be careful of organ thieves. A guy went travelling and accepted a bottle of water that wasn't sealed. The next thing he knew, he woke up in a bath full of ice. Beside him was a telephone so he could call an ambulance. He was taken to hospital and found out he had no kidneys: an organ thief had stolen them.

Are these legendary tales passed around just for fun? Some people think they can act as cautionary tales so that we're more careful. This could be true: my mum told me the story about organ thieves when I went travelling during my gap year. I believed it at the time and was horrified... and always checked that water bottles were sealed. Maybe I was a little too gullible.

Do you know any urban legends - or stories that are circulated but might not be true? Do you think there is a grain of truth in some urban legends? Are you a gullible person - do you believe things very easily and without evidence?


1) freezing cold
2) snow
3) mild
4) breeze
5) sunny
6) sweltering
7) pouring

CORRECTIONS: a/an, the

Right, let's have a look at articles: when should these be used? Olga, you write:

what a lovely memories!

Here you don't need the article 'a' because 'memories' is plural. So look at these two correct sentences: What a lovely memory! / What lovely memories!

The articles 'a/an' are only used with singular nouns. So I can write: I've read fascinating stories. No article is needed because it's plural, but here we need it: I've read a fascinating story.

Can you guess what the mistake is in this sentence:

A highly skilled archer, who lived in a Sherwood Forest with a group of his companions.

Here, you don't need the article 'a' before 'Sherwood Forest'. This is because a/an/the aren't used in front of proper nouns (names, cities, etc.). Look at these sentences:

I visited the Spain in January. = INCORRECT - Spain is a proper noun so we don't need the article.

I visited Spain in January. = CORRECT

I went to an Epping Forest in North London. = INCORRECT - we don't need 'an' here.

I went to a forest in North London. = CORRECT - the article is needed since it precedes the noun 'forest'.

In this sentence there is a similar mistake:

I bet you heard about English legendary hero, considered as one of the most famous.

Yes, you need the article 'the': I bet you heard about the English legendary hero...

This is because you refer to a specific hero - so look at these correct sentences:

I bet you heard about the English legendary hero, considered as one of the most famous.

I bet you've heard about legendary heroes from your country.

In the second sentence, we don't need the article 'the' because you're talking about heroes generally, rather than about one specific hero.

Let's practise articles in today's...


Article or no article? Fill in the gaps with a, an, the ... or nothing.

1) I'm eating ____ orange for lunch. I'm on a diet.
2) I love tasting ____ wines.
3) Last winter I went skiing in ____ Canada.
4) Helen, ____ biscuits you bought yesterday are delicious. Please buy some more!
5) Have you ever been to ____ Hyde Park in London?
6) Do you like eating ____ cheese?
7) I spoke to ____ artist who did these paintings. He seemed like 8) ____ eccentric guy!
9) The English like to drink ____ milk in their tea.
10) My mum looks so young: ____ people often think she's my sister.


urban legend / contemporary legend: a story that is circulated and may or may not be true
helmet: a hat that protects your head
sewers: underground passages that carry waste and water away
look-alike: a person who looks exactly like someone else
sealed: closed securely and tightly
gap year: a year between secondary school and university during which a student doesn't study
gullible: someone who believes everything you tell them
a grain of truth: a little bit of truth


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Rosie

    I think some of your stories are true, especially organ thief. Since everything if considering valuable there will be a chance that they will be stolen if we don't taking good care of them. I have heard that in China or any well developed countries, poor people sell their organ such as kidneys, rib etc. I 'm budhism people here believe in "As you sow, so you reap ", it's clever tactic to remind people not to do bad thing like these:-
    1. If don't respect to parents and shout at them, when die will go to hell and mouth will be as small as size of a needle and it will be very difficult to eat anything.
    2. Or if you torture and done some cruel things with animal, in your next life those animal will do the same as you have done to them.

    seems scaring and I think I have also make a lot of mistakes. For the homework:-
    1) I'm eating _an_ orange for lunch. I'm on a diet.
    2) I love tasting _nothing__ wines.
    3) Last winter I went skiing in _nothing__ Canada.
    4) Helen, _the__ biscuits you bought yesterday are delicious. Please buy some more!
    5) Have you ever been to _the__ Hyde Park in London?
    6) Do you like eating _nothing__ cheese?
    7) I spoke to __an_ artist who did these paintings. He seemed like 8) _an__ eccentric guy!
    9) The English like to drink _nothing__ milk in their tea.
    10) My mum looks so young: _nothing__ people often think she's my sister.


    Jow from Thailand

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Rosie,

    Urban legends are mostly funny. Everyone knows that stories are not true, but for some reason people wants to believe in these stories. Maybe stories manipulate our imagination, atleast they make our lives more interesting.

    You Rosie wrote about Eskimos, that they have many words for snow. I think that this is not only an urban legend. I have heard that they really have more words for snow. Here in Finland there is atleast two expressions for snow. One for snow what is so wet that you can make a snowman and one word for snow which is like powder when temperature is below zero celsius degrees.

    In Finland have also other expressions related for snow and winter weather. For example Finnish word "hankikanto" means snow in springtime where the sun has made surface of snow so hard that you can walk on snow.

    There are some urban legends too in a town where I live. Here are some buildings where dead man haunts. And also In the town centre there is a bell tower of an old church and if you are able run around of that tower durind the bell bangs its midnight, you will disappear.

    In a town centre is also a bridge where stands four man like statues. One of these statues keeps a squirrell skin in its hand. This squirrell skin will fall if a virgin over 15 years old walks under this statue.

    Anyway these stories are fun. Maybe there is some reason for these stories. I think that these stories are global. They are the same all over the world, but have also a local influence.

    Sincerely yours
    - ompputhecat -

  • Comment number 3.

    Hallo Rosie,

    Here are a couple legends I could remember.
    The Maya calender predicts a doomsday in 2012, December. There was a nearly funny story about it at my work. A man, probably very tired with work, said, "I'm so
    happy as it is going to be over soon!". "Why?". "We are having a doomsday this
    December", he answered. A girl, who presented there, sighed, "We have to wait for
    so long time yet".
    The next one is not so gloomy. It is a world-wide legend about flying sausers.
    They massively fly across the sky and sometimes draw amazing circles on wheat
    fields of England.

    The homework:
    1) an
    2) -
    3) -
    4) the
    5) -
    6) -
    7) the
    8) an
    9) -
    10) -

    Best regards,

  • Comment number 4.

    Hello Rossi.
    Thanks for your explanatios about the use of the article. I do the exercices in my notebook and I correct them when you give us the solutions.
    Regarding urban legends, I think it's possible the may have a grain of truth. When I was a child, a teenager, somebody told me one of these legends: a couple of teenagers go out in car to pass the evening in a lonely and dark place. The boy goes to pee and he doesn´t return Then, the girl hears somebody bouncing a ball on the top of the car. The girl faints because of terror. When she weaks up she finds out the ball isn´t a ball, but her boyfriend's head.
    Probably this legend isn't truth word by word, but't it's certain that couples in a lonely place are sometimes bothered and even attacked by vicius people.
    It's possible I'm very gullible, but sometimes real-life is worse than fiction. I think too you can´t live either beeing afraid of everything or mistruting everybody. It's possible I've believed the legend about the bottles of water, but I've thought "If somebody wants I fell asleep,somebody will inject something into my sealed bottle. I can't defend myself against every attackt, so I won´t worry".
    Happy weekend.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Rosie

    I can't tell you how grateful I am for your paying attention to correct my mistakes.

    You and the others above wrote some very interesting urban legends.
    I can't add any new ones to it. I am not consider myself a gulliable and tremulous person but it is recommended to be more precautious for example in unknown places with unknown people and of course with unsealed bottles.

    Having regard to my homework I completely agree with Yury_Sh's responses.

    Many thanks

    Krisztina from Hungary

  • Comment number 6.


    One the most fascinating fact about urban legend is that it is totally impossible to know if the story is true or not even if it seems unbelievable, who really knows ?... Most of time, there is somme slight differences which could be seen as proof that the story is not true but human brain doesn't memorize every detail of a story, only the main facts. So the differences prove nothing.

    I heard some stories as one people who put his cat into his microwave to dry it or many other stories in hospital (but i will not tell them on the site of the BBC !)
    I remember the Darwin prize which focused on the most stupid deaths. It was created in the 90's and spread all around the world very fast. The stories of these deaths were very funny and everybody wanted to believe them because we were feeling ourselves very smart compared to these people.

    Thanks for this website, this is the first comment I post

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Rosie,

    Thank you for the informative blog about urban legends. By the way, I am little confused about the meaning of 'urban legend', 'conspiratory theory' and 'myths'. Do all these infer to the same thing? I heard a couple of conspiratory theories, like Osama Bin Laden is still alive, In US there's a place called area 51 (if I remember it correctly), which is a forbidden military area where they'd kept aliens that were captured in the 50s after the flying saucer they were travelling in crashed somewhere in Mexico and drowned ships reappearing in the Bermuda Triangle area and so on. But, I'm not that gullible and find it extremely difficult to believe in many things that I hear. Now a days, it's so difficult to believe even in things that we see, many computer software are there that can morph images and videos which can't be caught by ordinary eyes. Recently, in facebook I saw images of a snake having 4-5 heads, then in another image some archaeologists were digging old human graves and the remains of the men seemed to be so giant that it would have been easily 6-7 times in size that of an average man. Then there's another urban legend often heard and discussed about is the Yeti (snow men), living in the Himalayas who're believed to be Herculean in size and pops up once in a blue moon. Many news channels sometime flash the sensational image of large human footprints in the snow believed to be made by those Yetis, probably to increase their TRP. Such stories endlessly keep on circulating and are relatively popular among less-inquiring minds. By the way, the organ thief seems true to me and it happens in many places. So be aware when you travel!

    Looking forward to your next blog.

    Best Regards,
    P.S. Please don't forget to correct my mistakes. I am already thinking of appointing you as my editor when I write a novel! :)

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Rosie!

    I will tell you a Buenos Aires urban legend. (I`m studying English, so I hope you can understand me!)

    This Legend called: "The white Lady"

    A young boy meets a beautiful girl and invites her to drink something. While they are in a bar drinking coffe, she felt cold and he gaves to her his coat. Suddenly, she spot the coat with coffe.
    The next day, the young man went to the beautiful girl`s house to look for his coat. But when he arrived, the girl´s mother said to him: "It can´t be possible! My daugther is deth, she is buried in Recoleta´s Cementery"
    He went to the Cementery and he saw his coat over the vault of the girl.
    after that, he commits suicide.

    The legend said that all nights the girl´s ghost walks around the Cementery.

    If somethime you came to Bs As you will visit her vault...

    See you!

  • Comment number 9.

    Jow, those are incredible urban legends. Be careful to always include a subject in English: If YOU don't respect parents and shout at them, when YOU die…

    Ompputhecat, have you ever tried running around the bell tower yourself? Don't forget that 'people' is a plural noun, so instead of 'people wants' it should be 'people want (they want)'.

    Yury, your story about the end of the world is very funny. There's a small mistake here: 'A girl, who presented there, sighed…' In English, we'd say 'A girl who was present there…' as 'who presented there' sounds like she might be presenting a TV or radio show!

    Narrosgirl, that urban legend is terrifying! Be careful with your spelling – you write: 'When she weaks up'. This should be 'When she wakes up'.

    Neraci, well done for your first post! You make a small mistake here: 'One the most fascinating fact'. After 'One of the…' in English, the noun is always plural. So it should be 'One the most fascinating facts'.

    Rajeeb – conspiracy theories are usually against someone/people, whereas urban legends are stories that may or may not be true. Myths often refer to old stories and can be very traditional, whereas urban legends are modern legends. The word 'myth' is also more general – it can mean any story that isn't true!

    Ariadna, your story sent a shiver down my spine! Remember to conjugate verbs correctly: He gives his coat to the girl, NOT gaves.

    Thanks for all your comments!

  • Comment number 10.

    from Rosie!

  • Comment number 11.

    Hello Rosie I am late on reply a little bit.
    I recollect now the story about coca cola in Georgia. Here is such story, that it is so chemical that even it can be use for cleaning the loos and sinks, and its ridiculous because the chemical which can cleaning something is oxygen which is not dangerous for body and this chemical have such trait. So there is a grain or speck of truth, but not completely. As everywhere in my country there are many such ridiculous stories and the electorate mostly are children who can not realize or check the truth.
    1) I'm eating ___an_ orange for lunch. I'm on a diet.
    2) I love tasting wines.
    3) Last winter I went skiing in Canada.
    4) Helen, __the__ biscuits you bought yesterday are delicious. Please buy some more!
    5) Have you ever been to __the__ Hyde Park in London?
    6) Do you like eating cheese?
    7) I spoke to __the__ artist who did these paintings. He seemed like 8) _an___ eccentric guy!
    9) The English like to drink milk in their tea.
    10) My mum looks so young: people often think she's my sister.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thank you Rosie for clarifying my queries. However, you're being generous to ignore my mistakes such as I wrote conspiratory theory instead I should have written conspiracy theory. I realised it when I read your reply. Wish you a great weekend!

    @Ariadna, your story was bit frightening. I wish not to date someone like that even by mistake.



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