Born January 13: A Bouncing Baby Urban Legend
Headlines from around the world, January 13, 2005:
"Webhead couple names baby Yahoo"
"Yahoo! It's a boy"
-The Sun, U.K.
"Internet couple name baby Yahoo"
-Daily Times, Pakistan
Oops. Smaller headlines, January 24, 2005:
"Boohoo! Yahoo baby story was a fake"
"Reporter fired for Yahoo baby hoax"
- MSNBC, U.S.
In case you missed it, the name heard 'round the world was supposedly selected by a Romanian couple who met online. It was actually a middle name: Lucian Yahoo Dragoman. (For my money, Lucian Dragoman is already a heck of a name on its own.) It was reported by the Bucharest paper Libertatea, and somehow became the biggest news story out of Romania in many moons.
Alas, it has been revealed that the reporter invented the whole story, and the newspaper, faced with an international embarassment, sacked him. My favorite part of the saga is this quote from the newspaper's editor:
"If it were real, it would have been a good story indeed."
Indeed! Perhaps American newspapers should lay off the ritual hand-wringing and self-flagellation when their reporters are caught fibbing, and just take the upbeat Romanian attitude: "Wouldn't it be way cool if it were true?"
But I digress.
When the story first broke, it spread like wildfire. Reports of little Yahoo spent days in the "most popular" and "most e-mailed" lists of news web sites. The boring, deflating retraction stories that followed never got any traction. It's fair to assume that thousands of people heard the initial story and never learned it was a fake. And there we have it: a brand new urban legend name, destined for a long life of telling and retelling.
But will it remain just a legend? I have to believe that somewhere out there is a real couple who really did meet on Yahoo Personals, and upon reading the news story--or even the retraction--said "Why not?" After all, it sounds great with Lucian.