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The Den Of Iniquity - Alt.Folklore.Urban

Quick - the "Best of AFU" is now available.

What is AFU?

AFU, the accepted abbreviation for alt.folklore.urban, is a newsgroup (or newsfroup if you prefer) dealing in urban legends and other embellished tales. It has become notorious as a reasonably high-volume group in which newbies can be mercilessly flamed. However, it doesn't have to be that way. Everyone on AFU was a newbie once, so there is obviously some way to gain acceptance, or at least avoidance, from the main crew at AFU. So, how do you go about it?

First trick is simple: Read the FAQ. The FAQ lists all of the classic legends, that have already been discussed to death on the group. They will have a mark next to them, T, Tb, U, Fb or F. If the legend is rated a U, and you have some kind of documentation regarding the truth (or *veracity*), then it is probably worth posting to the group, but only if you are absolutely certain.

The FAQ may or may not be available from the home page reachable here. Currently it is undergoing some domain name problems.

If you find a legend listed as F or Fb in the FAQ and you heard it from someone else off the net, chances are it is merely "doing the rounds". If you post to AFU claiming that it is true because you heard it from this "friend of a friend" or FOAF, then you are likely to get seriously flamed. There is, however, one exception to this guaranteed flame rule.

What's Norway got to do with AFU?

Two things, Cindy Kandolf and Trolls. The troll in AFU is a classic form of gotcha, which invariably either succeeds beyond all expectations or fails dismally. It never goes quite as planned. In a troll, one of the legends is changed very slightly, if at all, and then posted to the group. To distinguish it as a troll, however, the word troll must usually be put in the Subject: or Keywords: lines of the news header. Sometimes putting it in the .sig, or carefully hidden in the message, will be acceptable.

Your troll succeeds when someone follows up to your message, either flaming you or putting up some "me, too" response. It is best not to reveal the troll yourself, however, leaving the job to someone big on AFU. Failing that, if you get a number of responses it is best to reveal it after a reasonable period. Recent trolls have included a repeat of the old "peanut butter" thread. If you don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky.

Hey, you forgot to mention Cindy Kandolf!

Okay, Cindy Kandolf is Norway's most famous netizen (arguably, anyway). She probably qualifies as one of AFU's official NetLegends(tm). Most of these people are famous only on AFU, but a couple are so big that they have even spawned their own newsgroups. The NetLegends list includes:

What's this "middle name" thing?

First of all, on AFU these days it is called an internym. It's a running gag. Don't try to understand it, just copy it, OK? The traditional thing to do is stick some relevant quote in it, relating to the post yet trying to be funny on its own. It doesn't always succeed, but it can add value to a post that would otherwise be considered off-topic and worthy of flamage by the Kabal (there is no kabal).

Shouldn't that be "cabal"?

Another of AFU's devices to separate the newbies from the Old Hats (the experienced posters), the deliberate misspelling, has just been unleashed on you by reading this page. Some regular misspellings are put into AFU, and when a newbie pounces, we know we've caught them. It's a mean, vicious bloodsport, but for some reason we pretty much all like it. The classic misspellings are:

  • voracity and veracity for each other (and their variants as appropriate)
  • cow orker for co-worker
  • doe snot for does not
  • mipslet for misspelt

Wait just a minute, what happened to how to succeed on AFU?

Oh, so you actually want the answer now? Well, I guess I sort of promised it to you, so here goes. To succeed on AFU, don't make your first ever post a troll. Start with some followups to someone else's thread. Don't make your own thread until you have read the FAQ back-to-front and know it properly. Gradually increase the number of postings you put up, so that you don't suddenly appear on the scene and make everyone notice. Unless you come in with impregnable sources of information, people will be instantly suspicious. After all, they were newbies once, and they remember what happened to them. Oh, yeah, and don't use unexplained acronyms, or smilies. ESPECIALLY SMILIES.

Oh, yeah? Says you, bub.

AFU has some basic etiquette requirements (or netiquette requirements, whichever you prefer). Firstly, acronyms are designed to reduce the amount of data needed to convey information. But this means that there are a number of different meanings for the same acronym. We can't tell which one you mean unless you explain yourself, so AFU has instituted the Ban on Acronyms (ironically more often referred to as the BOA). Only certain acronyms can get away safely, including the following:

  • AFU - alt.folklore.urban
  • BOA - ban on acronyms
  • HTH - hope this helps
  • IMHO - in my humble opinion
  • TWIAVBP - the world is a very big place
  • UKoGBaNI - United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Now, smilies, or emoticons to be general. These expressions :-) :-( ;-) d:-p are perfectly acceptable in many contexts to express emotions or intent. Alt.folklore.urban does not welcome smilies. It sees them as being used mainly for two purposes: (1) as the net equivalent of a laugh track, and (2) as ways to deny responsibility for nasty accusations people make (to deflect attention away from an insult, for example). These are not the sort of uses that we want to see on a group discussing urban legends.

Personally, I use smilies in my email from time to time, depending on context. But I never, EVER, use them when posting to AFU or responding to an AFU thread that has since gone to email.

I heard something about "avoid September" once. Why?

September is AFU's "black month". It signifies the return of students to college throughout the United States, and hence there are a whole new bunch of freshers to infuriate the old hands. You get a resurgence in the classic posts as impatient freshpeople who don't read the FAQ break the one rule of etiquette that applies. Oh, by the way, it sort of lasts into October, so if you are going to start posting to AFU, try March or April.

What is snopes?

snopes is AFU's trollster extraordinaire. He has been known to incite violence on a regular basis, especially in any thread involving Canada. Do not believe any message posted by snopes, in fact assume whatever he says is false unless you have direct proof to the contrary. snopes is to be avoided at all costs. Do not even make the attempt to flame him in a thread he has started. This will only make you troll-bait, no matter what you have to say. Basically, the nature of AFU has put snopes in a no-lose situation, and you can't do a thing about it. Just follow his trail of devastation as newbies fall hook, line and sinker for his obvious falsehoods and post in to correct. It can be quite fun to watch.

So where do all these posters come from?

There is a saying on AFU that The World is a Very Big Place. It has been said so often that it is one of the few acceptable acronyms that can be used on AFU, TWIAVBP. We have people who post to alt.folklore.urban from a large number of countries. Obviously the US, Canada, and the UK feature quite heavily, but there are also posters from Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Hong Kong, and many other places around the globe. That can make things interesting - the first rule of posting locally relevant stories is to take note that not everybody will understand every local reference you make. Use footnotes, or explain yourself carefully, or something. People will appreciate it, trust me.

Compared to the total number of AFUsters out there, the number of regular posters with a .au relationship is in fact fairly low. It turns out that South Australia is the best state for AFU fans, with regular posters besides myself being Terry Smith and Leo Lazauskas (the latter also being from Adelaide Uni). There are also a couple of Queenslanders and Victorians, but I haven't really done any analysis yet.


AFU can be a great newsgroup to get involved in. Just take it easy at first, until you can get away with the odd troll for newbies. A high enough volume of postings over a sufficiently long period and you could qualify for NetLegend status! {Schyeah, right}

The Archive Formerly Known as Cathouse - AFU on Web (TAFKAC)

Previously the AFU archives were stored exclusively on ftp at the site. Eventually, however, cathouse went HTML. While a number of the files are still available in their original text form, many are also available as hypertext documents to increase your reading ease and pleasure (tm). The cathouse is here, and you can also reach a large number of other AFUites from there. If you are interested in urban legends as a whole the general page may interest you.

There is also a very extensive collection of legends, with cites, details and lots of eye candy courtesy of the "San Fernando Urban Legends Society" or some such. Basically it is a site run by Mr and Mrs snopes. I highly recommend this site.

This page by: Duncan Richer,
Last updated: Saturday, April 04, 1998