After a difficult winter, a day to play harmless pranks could be a welcome break. The key word here is “harmless,” and there is a time limit — only until noon on April 1.
April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day is celebrated mostly in Europe and America, challenging fun-loving pranksters to be creative and play tricks on friends and neighbors.
In France, jokers stick a paper fish on your back, saying “poisson d’avril,” which means an April fish, a young, easily-caught, gullible fish. . . a sucker. In Scotland the first day begins by sending someone on a phony errand, “hunting the gowk” (a word for a cuckoo, symbol for a fool — here we might say a snipe hunt.) Then Tailie Day follows with pranks involving people’s backsides, with fake tails or signs saying “kick me” pinned on.
In 1957, the BBC ran a report on Swiss farmers and their record spaghetti crop, with footage of a pasta harvest. Some viewers even inquired about buying a spaghetti plant. Then in 1996, Taco Bell announced it had bought the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. A couple of years later, Burger King advertised a Left-Handed Whopper, which turned into a much-ordered hit.
Disc jockeys in Florida got into trouble when they announced to their startled listeners that the EPA had found dihydrogen monoxide was coming out of their taps! They were suspended, even after they explained that dihydrogen monoxide was only water.
In Oregon, a popular radio station broadcast an entire April Fools’ Day Parade that lasted all morning. Families drove in from the country with the kids to see the Parade, which of course only existed on air. Complaints were made to the FCC, and the station nearly lost its license. That was the last Parade broadcast, but bootleg tapes of it are highy prized.
Some historians have claimed that Geoffrey Chaucer made an April Fools’ joke when he wrote about an event on March 32 in one of his 1392 Canterbury Tales. That, of course, is April 1. Geoffrey, you scamp!
Nowadays, we have ripe political fields to harvest, and on-air “reporters” make it difficult to tell fake news from reality.
Newspapers frequently print fake stories that can be believeable — like the annual Washing of the Lions at the Tower of London.
Look for clues, even in this paper. Check out the name of the reporter — one such was Lirpa Loof, which is April Fool spelled backwards. Even in Spanish, the word inocente can mean either innocent or gullible. Anything that brings laughter can’t be bad, as long as nobody is hurt.
It would probably be wise not to announce anything serious on April 1. That day in 1970, Richard Nixon signed the law that banned cigarette ads from television and radio. Some remember newscasters explaining that this was real, after many telephoned to ask.
Truth and facts are not fluid things subject to interpretation. Our judicial system is based on that concept. Truth and facts are not faith-based; they are. And words are powerful.
But some folks will believe anything, or do we need to be reminded of that? Less now, I think.
So the next time you watch Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Lee Camp, John Oliver, Bill Maher and other “news” programs, turn your hoax-detector on and enjoy the fun. Look at a duck-billed platypus and tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Happy
April Fools’ Day today, and Happy Easter while you’re at it.