It is amusing for me that society actively celebrates holidays whose origins are unknown, uncertain or ‘cloudy’ at best. Boxing Day and Halloween, for example, have conflicting theories as to when and how they began. However no holiday’s origins are as questionable as that of April Fools’ Day. In my research I managed to find no 100% conclusive facts regarding its beginnings. Some theorize that it dates back to the Middle Ages when New Year’s Day coincided with the spring equinox (March 25th) which in those times lasted a week until April 1st. Other theories mention a strange line from Canterbury Tales from Chaucer in which he mentions the date March 32nd drawing speculation that it may have been an intentional gag to fool pretentious and uneducated readers. Several other theories abound but nevertheless it has had a long and fun history in Europe. Throughout the last century people have gone to great lengths to test the limits of people’s naivety.
Today we will look at the top 5 most elaborate or controversial April Fools’ Day pranks.
#5 The Life of Pi
In 1998 an Alabama man by the name of Mark Boslough nonchalantly published a story about a new law being passed that would simply allow Pi to be rounded down to just 3. Mathematicians and scientists along with members of the academic community made an immediate public outcry suggesting that they were infuriated at not even being made aware of the proposed changes. Marshall Bergmann a manager at the Ballistic Missile Defence Organization said, „It would have been nice if they had consulted with someone who actually uses pi,” After a short time the cat was let out of the bag.
#4 Toilet Paper for Lefties
Even in the age of Twitter it’s possible to find a gullible group who will believe just about anything. Just 3 years ago in 2015 Conttonelle released a tweet saying that it had relented to the huge public demand and was finally releasing its latest product – toilet paper for left-handed people. We can’t be sure how many people actually ‚bought it’ but there were several replies and retweets.
#3 Big Ben to Have LED Display!?!
4 years ago an article on BBC.co.uk announced that the iconic Big Ben would be getting a digital update much to the ire of its readers. The lengthy article by journalist Jack Moore went on to provide seemingly legitimate justifications for the update and even stated that the well-known chimes would be changed to a synthesized beep or the ring of an iPhone all in a bid to ‚revitalize the landmark.’ Presumably most of the BBC’s readers noticed the release date and time of the article – 00:00:01 April 1st 2014, but perhaps many readers didn’t.
#2 Amazing Foresight
Way back in 1994 John Dvorak published a small article in PC Magazine about a newly proposed piece of legislation that would make it against the law to use the new and blossoming internet while intoxicated much the way it is illegal to drink and drive. Apparently the column was taken seriously even though John mentioned that the contact person for further information regarding the proposed legislation was Lirpa Sloof (read each name back to front)
No matter how silly it may have seemed at the time, don’t you think this kind of a law may help curb the instances of overly emotional emails or Facebook posts written under the influence of alcohol?
#1 The Famous Spaghetti Harvest
Perhaps no April Fool’s prank ever managed to so successfully take the public off guard as the small segment which aired at the end of the hugely popular UK news program called Panorama on April 1st 1957. It was perhaps the first time the medium of television had ever been used in a hoax and the apparent authenticity of the info segment itself and the unquestionable authority of its anchor – Richard Dimbleby made it very successful at taking in the British public.
The show discussed in great detail (with archive footage) the successful year the annual Swiss Spaghetti Harvest was experiencing. It showed people gathering the abundant spaghetti from the trees and putting it in baskets. The narrative describing how the favourable weather had contributed to a „bumper crop” seemed as plausible as could be and no doubt had people all across the UK scratching their heads.
This has on several occasions been called the greatest April Fool’s hoax of all time. http://hoaxes.org/aprilfool
Watch the BBC report here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU
So what kind of pranks do you do on April Fools’ Day? Have you ever been the victim of a prank or maybe you think this day is just a huge waste of time? Let us know in the comments section.
Let the cat out of the bag – to reveal a secret that you have been keeping or wanted to be kept for as long as possible
Gullible – Naïve, easy fooled or tricked
To buy what someone says – To believe something that seems obviously false
To curb something – to restrain, stifle or keep something under control
To take someone in with a lie – To convince someone that a falsehood is true