Things of short-lived relevance, transitory, fleeting, temporary nature.

Electronic Ephemera

The group (Genus) name for the all the distinct classes of EE, such as Hoax, Urban Legend, Scam, Spoof, Chain Mail, etc. All of these are only considered species of EE if they are sent/received electronically.


Pronunciation: 'mEm
: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture

Memes (pronounced Meem) are the basic building blocks of our minds and culture, in the same way that genes are the basic building blocks of biological life. Richard Dawkins (an Oxford zoologist) has been credited with first publication of the concept of meme in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

Memes are contagious ideas, all competing for a share of our mind in a kind of Darwinian selection. As memes evolve, they become better and better at distracting and diverting us from whatever we'd really like to be doing with our lives. They are a kind of Drug of the Mind.

Memetics is the study of Memes, which is described as:

"Memetics is extending Darwinian evolution to include culture. There are several exciting conclusions from doing this, one of which is the ability to predict that ideas will spread not because they are "good ideas", but because they contain "good memes" such as danger, food and sex that push our evolutionary buttons and force us to pay attention to them"


Here's the entries from various dictionaries:

Hoax \Hoax\, n. [Prob. contr. fr. hocus, in hocus-pocus.] A deception for mockery or mischief; a deceptive trick or story; a practical joke. --Macaulay.


Hoax \Hoax\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Hoaxed; p. pr. & vb. n. Hoaxing.] To deceive by a story or a trick, for sport or mischief; to impose upon sportively. --Lamb.


hoax n : deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage [syn: fraud, fraudulence, dupery, put-on] v : subject to a hoax [syn: play a joke on]

Hybrid Virus Hoax

This is a more unusual class, which includes Virus Hoaxes that contain some genuine information amongst the usual dire warnings. An example of this class of EE would be the SULFNBK.EXE virus hoax that appeared early in 2001.

Chain Letters/E-Mail

The following description is from the CIAC web site:

Chain letters and most hoax messages all have a similar pattern. From the older printed letters to the newer electronic kind, they all have three recognisable parts:

  • A hook.
  • A threat.
  • A request.

The Hook

First, there is a hook, to catch your interest and get you to read the rest of the letter. Hooks used to be "Make Money Fast" or "Get Rich" or similar statements related to making money for little or no work. Electronic chain letters also use the "free money" type of hooks, but have added hooks like "Danger!" and "Virus Alert" or "A Little Girl Is Dying". These tie into our fear for the survival of our computers or into our sympathy for some poor unfortunate person.

The Threat

When you are hooked, you read on to the threat. Most threats used to warn you about the terrible things that will happen if you do not maintain the chain. However, others play on greed or sympathy to get you to pass the letter on. The threat often contains official or technical sounding language to get you to believe it is real.

The Request

Finally, the request. Some older chain letters ask you to mail a dollar to the top ten names on the letter and then pass it on. The electronic ones simply admonish you to "Distribute this letter to as many people as possible." They never mention clogging the Internet or the fact that the message is a fake, they only want you to pass it on to others.



Urban Legends

An urban legend:

  • appears mysteriously and spreads spontaneously in varying forms.
  • contains elements of humour or horror (the horror often "punishes" someone who flouts society's conventions).
  • makes good storytelling.
  • does not have to be false, although most are. ULs often have a basis in fact, but it's their life after-the-fact (particularly in reference to the second and third points) that gives them particular interest.


Urban folklore is not restricted to events that supposedly happened in urban areas.



Jokes and Spoofs

The following are definitions of a joke and a spoof:

Function: noun
1 a : something said or done to provoke laughter; especially : a brief oral narrative with a climactic humorous twist b (1) : the humorous or ridiculous element in something (2) : an instance of jesting : c : PRACTICAL JOKE
2 : something not to be taken seriously : a trifling matter <consider his skiing a joke -- Harold Callender> -- often used in negative construction <it is no joke to be lost in the desert>

Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Spoof, a hoaxing game invented by Arthur Roberts died 1933 English comedian
Date: 1889
2 : to make good-natured fun of




Pronunciation: 'skam

Function: noun

Etymology: origin unknown

Date: 1963

: a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation <an insurance scam>

By far the most widespread scam with the most variants seen, is the ‘undying’ Nigerian Money Scam.

I have received several dozen variants of the Nigerian Money Transfer scam already this year.

However, Nigeria is not the only country mentioned, Sierra-Leone, Ivory Coast, etc. You can find most of these variants listed at: (137 variants listed as at 6/9/01)

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