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1 Jamie: So... we’re busting the myth that Dracula wore Levi’s?
1 Adam: Yeah!
2 Jamie: Nobody even thinks that! That’s not a myth!
3 Adam: Well, we’ll bust the myth that Dracula didn’t wear Levi’s! Everyone thinks that! Maybe they’re wrong!
4 Adam: And we get to travel to Transylvania!
4 Jamie: You know Dracula is a myth, right?
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The word myth has a lot of different definitions and meanings, according to who you ask and what you think of the related suite of concepts yourself.
One definition that caught me by surprise the other day when discussing this storyline with a friend is that myth is a particular genre of folklore. Because if you'd asked me (before that conversation), I would have said that folklore was a subset of myth, not the other way around.
The people who study this stuff (i.e. folklorists) consider folklore to be the whole body of traditional culture including not only all of the oral and written stories, but also other traditions such as rituals, celebrations, music, beliefs, and rites. If you'd asked me what folklore was, I would just have blithely said, "fairy tales and stuff".
On the other hand, mythologists consider myth to be the specific subset of folklore concerning stories that are about the origins of the world and people, gods, and supernatural events. Whereas if you'd asked me what myth was, I would have said any story that was made up by people - in particular, including the "fairy tales" of folklore as a subset.
So, okay, according to common academic definitions of the fields of study, I was completely wrong. But why was I completely wrong? Or rather, why did I get my own internal definitions of myth and folklore so very different from the academic definitions?
Although I'm very interested in mythology and folklore, I've never studied it in an organised manner, nor taken any courses in it. I must have formulated my own working definitions of the terms based on more popular and common usage of the words, and my own feelings for what sorts of things fit within each category.
MythBusters, the real TV show, has done its part to propagate the notion that a "myth" is anything that some people might believe but which isn't true. They never state that a myth has to be a story about gods or the creation of the world.
Now I'm pondering a new TV show, The Real Mythbusters, in which a bunch of actual mythologists go around trying to debunk legends about the Egyptian Gods and Ragnarok and Odysseus and stuff.
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