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I have tried to make a “fool” out of someone, somewhere, before 12noon, on the 1st April every year!
Last year, myself and a couple of colleagues decided to tie the lever on our manager’s chair to the top of the mechanism so that whenever he sat on the office chair it would shrink down to the floor, and when he got up it would return to normal height. I remember the look of surprise on his face when he sat down only to descend swiftly to the floor. Once he heard the sniggers coming from our pod in the office, he quickly worked out that he had been the victim of a fool’s day joke and thankfully laughed it off!
Another prank I participated in was when working in a criminal law firm. I had only been there a short period of time and was not yet legally qualified. A colleague of mine and I hatched a plan to stich up another solicitor in the office. He proceeded to exit the building, where from his mobile phone he made a call to me in the office. Being the humble trainee that I was, once my colleague reported the crime he had (supposedly) committed to me on the phone, I, in a state of panic, transferred the call to the solicitor in the office for him to provide advice. The crime reported was a brutal murder whereby the victim had been left in the assailant’s bathtub, and the assailant in his crazed state called our offices to report the crime. Once the jokee had managed to calm the joker down, he finally got out of him that the victim in this murder was in fact…. a blow up doll! The language that proceeded to exit the mouth of the fool in this situation is just too outrageous to put into writing; cue howls of laughter exiting my office once the joker arrived back in from the car park.
In reality, these pranks are tame. On April 1st 1957, the BBC show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Many viewers called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree! To this, the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best”.
But I wonder, where does the tradition of playing pranks stem from? I tried to find out, but even Wikipedia is unsure as to its origins.
One explanation comes when Pope Gregory XIII decided to change the calendar year so that New Years’ Day was celebrated on the 1st January instead of 1st April. He did it, but failed to tell everyone, and of some he told, they didn’t believe him and so continued to celebrate the New Year on the 1st April. People poked fun at these traditionalists and sent them on “fool’s errands”, trying to trick them into believing something that was false. The problem with this explanation: there is absolutely no direct historical evidence to prove it!
Another explanation came from a history professor at Boston University. He said that during the reign of Roman emperor Constantine, a group of court jesters and fools told the emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused and allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed a law calling for “absurdity” on that day, and the custom became an annual event. The problem with this explanation: the history professor had made the whole thing up, playing an April fool himself!
Despite the origins of the day remaining a mystery people continue to celebrate the tradition, having a laugh and a joke, playing pranks and creating hoaxes. Its all fun and games…
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