virus: ostention, repression, ignition, exhaust

Eva-Lise Carlstrom (
Tue, 18 Mar 1997 21:49:01 -0800 (PST)

On Wed, 19 Mar 1997, Tony Hindle wrote:

> In message <Pine.SUN.3.95.970316225915.9221A-
>>, Eva-Lise Carlstrom <>
> writes
> > I'm noticing more and more
> >modern folklore since I started thinking and reading about it more. The
> >Urban Legends theme party went well, by the way; I learned some new ones.
> Have you heard of the phenomena of "ostention" (sorry
> probably spelt wrong, only ever heard it spoken, no reference to
> earlier threads intended). This is where an urban legend turns to a
> fact after someone has heard it and decides to fullfill it. I
> certainly believe it occurs. Consider the urban legend below (I'll
> include it in full in case it's a new one but I'm sure you have
> heard it before.)
> A couple return from visiting to discover they have been
> burgled. Place is a mess but a few things have been left, including
> a camera that was in the middle of a film. They reported burgalry
> etc. and over next couple of months they finished film and sent it
> away for developement. Pictures came back including two unexpected
> ones. Pictures of bums with the toothbrushes they had stil been
> using shoved up the arseholes.
> I can imagine that some mischievous burglars upon hearing
> this tale would carry out this act for fun if they found a cheap
> camera with a film half used in the house.
> Motto is throw away your toothbrushes if you ever get
> burgled.

I was not familiar with the term 'ostention' (nor does it seem familiar by
any other spelling I can think of), but I am familiar with the concept.
In some cases an urban legend may derive from a real event, in some cases
the reverse, and in some there is no relationship. Some of the more
feasible urban legends certainly seem to invite imitation.

Thanks for the legend, I hadn't heard or read that one. I think I'll go
bleach my toothbrush now in case someone broke in and I didn't notice.

> What we should really be frightened of is ostention with
> respect to the end of the world is nigh prophecies from the ever-
> increasing number of religious cults.

Predictions of assassination attempts are always dicey for the same
reason--someone may hear the prediction and act to make it true. In a
sense, such a self-fulfilling prophecy is a performative utterance (For
non-linguists: A performative utterance is a self-enacting speech act,
such as "I promise...", "I hereby vow...", "I apologize", or "I declare
war". Sometimes I suspect that "I love you" is a speech act; I'm never
sure whether those times are my most cynical, or my least).

> BTW Eva did you read my posting on repressed memories?
> what do you think?

Yes, and thanks for posting it. I found it interesting, but not enough to
base my own conclusion on about the existence or nonexistence of repressed
memories in the clinical and legal senses. There are certainly cases in
which someone has seemingly forgotten something and then recalled it, and
there are also cases in which someone has unknowingly concocted a false
memory for themselves. I can think of banal personal instances of both.
I am inclined to think that while such methods as hypnosis might possibly
help draw out real memories that might otherwise not be accessed readily,
they are also extremely vulnerable to suggestion and bias.