Underground City – Edinburgh

The Informant is 21 years old, a senior at USC, was raised in Las Vegas, and now her family resides in The Bay Area.

Her: I studied abroad last semester in Edinburgh, Scotland, and before I got there I was told about this urban legend from some people I know. A teacher, my mom’s fiancé, and then one of my friends going to Edinburgh with me all told me about this urban legend that there was an underground city beneath Scotland. Beneath Edinburgh.

Me: So, these were Americans telling you about Scottish urban legends?

Her: Yes! When I was in Edinburgh though I didn’t go on any tours for the underground city or anything. I actually didn’t really see them. No one in Scotland that I talked to really heard about it when I asked them *laughs*. I think there were like cemetery tours and torture tours that would talk about stuff LIKE that, but nothing really on the nose.

Me: So, when you were in Scotland you realized that the underground city wasn’t really an urban legend that Scottish people talked about?

Her: Yeah, exactly. It was like a Scottish legend that Americans had heard about but like wasn’t really true! Or maybe it is! I’ll never know! The same thing happened with the term “water closet” though.

Me: What happened?

Her: Well, I was always told that English people say “water closet” for bathroom. I also heard that they said “loo”. But then when I went to England and I brought it up to my English friends they laughed so hard! They’d never even heard of that word before and thought it was ridiculous. No idea where it came from. I was so confused.


I think this piece is especially unique and informative of how folklore is transferred across and perceived by other cultures. It gives insight to how cultures view one another, and how inaccurate they may be sometimes, bringing about the significance of “emic” and “etic” observations. The difference of opinions between the “emic” culture (Edinburgh and England) and the “etic” culture (America) are striking in this instance in that they cancel one another out. Alone, each of these views are uninteresting, but when combined we get a more complete picture of each of the cultures.