Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Glurge and other Internet Hoaxes

A few years ago I showed a group of 10 to 12 year olds in my Sunday School class a number of pictures I had received by email. I asked them to decide which pictures depicted truth and which were false or misleading. The pictures above were part of the group. The children were generally unsuccessful at picking out the fraudulent images. Virtually everything we hear comes with some sort of bias, whether it is a friend recounting an event or an anchor reporting the network news. Sometimes we choose to believe stories that are outrageously sentimental because they have an emotional effect on us. We want to believe something that is heart warming. Television shows such as Touched by an Angel were successful because people do enjoy this genre. (yes, I watched the show too and cried through the episode where the little boy died of cystic fibrosis and Wynonna Judd sang Testify to Love)

Glurge is a new word coined to describe those inspirational stories that come to your email inbox offering a strong moral lesson, distorted or untrue facts along with the threat of misfortune if you do not forward them to all your friends. Facebook has also become a vehicle for these sappy offerings. Here are some definitions of glurge…

Glurge is another name for extremely sickly-sweet, religious/inspirational or otherwise emotional blindsiding via chain mail. Glurge is intended to switch off the brain and turn on the tear ducts.

Glurge is the body of inspirational tales which conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer, and which undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering "true stories."

The word was coined by Patricia Chapin, a member of the Urban Legends team at Snopes. At a loss for words to describe the retching sensation this then unnamed category of stories subjected her to, she fashioned a word that simultaneously named the genre and described its effect.

I have been deceived myself by some of these stories which may have some truth in them. I received an email about the origins of the hymn “Precious Lord Take My Hand” by Tommy Dorsey. It told of a tragedy in the life of the famous trombonist and dance band leader that led him to write this beautiful song. But the truth is that it was written by Thomas A. Dorsey, a Negro musician who wrote gospel music, not Tommy Dorsey the famous white musician.

It is unfortunate that stories like these are told by preachers and inspirational speakers, leaving us at risk for emotional duping. Becka and I were doubled over in laughter last night reading examples of glurge on the internet. Some people have taken to writing their own glurge as a creative exercise. Some glurge is true, but the truth is frequently embellished and slanted.

In my opinion, the best website for checking the truth of any story or picture is Snopes urban legends reference pages. I check any email forwards I receive, (if I haven’t trashed them immediately) here. If you have some time to put in, Snopes has lots of entertaining reading. It features a number of categories including a Glurge Gallery and a section called Fauxtography!

History has proved that it is very easy to deceive large groups of people. The internet has the capability of spreading information, true or false at rapid speed.

By the way, which picture of the four above is true? They are all found on Snopes.


  1. Ruth, Thanks for adding that word, 'glurge' to my lexicon. Indeed, I've received one of those emails with the exhortation to pass it along or 'else' . . .

    Those links are great. I'm going to use them from now on.

    (I'm a little disappointed about that giant cat ;0)

  2. Anonymous9:34 pm GMT-5

    I am thinking the giant cat! . . . only kidding but sometimes when I need to pick my cats up, I feel the way the guy in the photo feels!

  3. Glurge--what a great created word!
    I suspect the square watermelons are the only bona fide things. I sort of recall someone growing them in square containers. The rest are probably hooey (speaking of great words).

  4. Glurge - thanks for explaining the new word! The iceberg is the only image I believe because I just saw the same image in Science Illustrated.

  5. I love this post Ruth! It amazes me how many people (smart people, who I really admire) will be sucked into glurge and internet hoaxes and pass them on to everyone in their email list without checking them out. Makes me bonkers! I found snopes.com years ago, and like you, look up everything that comes to me which is suspect, which these days is quite a bit. Wonderful reminder, thanks!

  6. Thanks for your comments. I have posted links for each picture (check under the picture) so you can see what is true. Pam, the iceberg photo was a poster in my daughter's classroom, but sadly, it is a photo-manipulation. Donna is right on. I'd hate to feed that cat!

  7. I don't care what you say, I'll still believe in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, because my mum told me ... and my mum would never lie :-)

    Sometimes I've wondered what other life forms that scientists say might be found in far off solar systems, orbiting around far off suns in remote galaxies might believe in.

    I wonder if they think we exist?

  8. Hi Rob...I have my own little dreams that I would like to think are true too. After seeing the eclipse of the moon tonight, I wouldn't wonder at what might appear from another galaxy!

  9. I've been duped into believing things that I wanted to believe when I was younger-(get rich quick schemes)-
    Glurge is a word that I had never heard of before-thanks for the interesting post.

  10. Larry- Glurge was new to me too, but I like the word. Who wouldn't be tempted by get rich schemes? We realize after a while that there are seldom any shortcuts to riches.

  11. Thanks, Ruth, for letting others know about Snopes.com. My daughter put me wise to it a few years ago, and I glad to know that some folks on the internet are doing others a service rather than a disservice.

  12. MaryC- Snopes is a great site and we really need to check up on much of what we see online. All media needs to be checked...

  13. I met a young man in Tifton, Georgia whose specialty was engineering watermelsons to fit in different spaces.


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