Friday, April 1, 2011

History of April Fool's Day

Before you make plans for your day don't forget to remember that today is April Fools' Day or All Fools' Day. Pay attention! If something seems to good (or bad) to be true it probably is someone playing a joke on you.

This day is celebrated in many countries on April 1. The day is marked by the commission of hoaxes, and other practical jokes of varying sophistication, on friends, family members, enemies, and neighbors, or sending them on fool's errand, the aim of which is to embarrass the gullible.

Traditionally, in some countries, the jokes only last until noon: in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, someone who plays a trick after noon is called an "April Fool". Elsewhere, such as in Ireland, France, and the USA, the jokes last all day.

Origins: The origin of April Fools' Day is obscure. One likely theory is that the modern holiday was first celebrated soon after the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar; the term referred to someone still adhering to the Julian Calendar which it replaced. In many pre-Christian cultures May Day (May 1) was celebrated as the first day of summer, and signalled the start of the spring planting season. An April Fool was someone who did this prematurely.

Well known pranks:

Spaghetti trees: The BBC television program Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. They had claimed that the despised pest, the spaghetti weevil, had been eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees. It was, in fact filmed in England.

Left Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side. Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the "old", right-handed burger.

Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell." When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

Metric time: Repeated several times in various countries, this hoax involves claiming that the time system will be changed to one in which units of time are based on powers of 10.

Smell-o-vision: In 1965, the BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odor over the airwaves to all viewers. Many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report the trial's success. In 2007, the BBC website repeated an online version of the hoax.

Tower of Pisa: The Dutch television news reported once in the 1950s that the Tower of Pisa had fallen over. Many shocked people contacted the station.

Annual BMW Innovations see a new "cutting-edge invention" by BMW advertised across British newspapers - The "Toot and Calm Horn" (afterTutankhamun), which calms rather than aggravates other drivers, so reducing the risk of road rage.

Another advertisement: Canine Repellent Alloy Protection (CRAP)- a means of discouraging dogs from urinating on car wheels. (2008)

By radio stations
"National Public Radio" Every year National Public Radio in the United States does an extensive news story on April 1st. These usually start off more or less reasonably, and get more and more unusual. A recent example is the story on the "iBod" a portable body control device. In 2008 it reported that the IRS, to assure rebate checks were actually spent, was shipping consumer products instead of checks.

I really wanted to play a joke on you, the reader, but after reading those listed above I couldn't think of a single thing to fool you that would be so creative.

So regarding April Fool's Day - you have been alerted - beware!


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