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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Thing Not To Do Today: be a fool.

Today isn't April Fools' Day.

Yes, the date (April 1st) is right, but here in England April Fools' Day only lasts until midday, so today is, strictly speaking, April Fools' half day.

Aprils Fools' Day has been around for so long that no one is quite sure when or how it started, but Iran's Sizdah Bedar has involved jokes played on the 1st or 2nd April ever since 536 BC.

In Italy, France and Belgium, people take the opportunity to tack paper fishes on each other's back and shout "April fish!"; in Flanders children lock out their teachers or parents, demanding treats as payment for readmittance. 

But in English-speaking countries we're really talking mind games.

One of my favourite tricks was played on 1 April 1698, when several people were persuaded to make a trip to the Tower of London to see the lions washed.

Then, in 1976, there was the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect. The greatly respected British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Pluto planets was going to cause an upward gravitational pull. This would mean that people would be quite a lot lighter at 9:47 am. He invited his audience to jump in the air and experience "a strange floating sensation". Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked.

Good, eh? Except that now you are left with a problem. Are those two stories I've just told you true, or have I made them up as an April Fools' trick?

As there's nothing I can say at this point to convince you one way or the other (though they are actually both completely true) I think I'll go off and tell my husband about the pig sitting in our pond.

I bet he'll look, too.

Thing Not To Do Today: be a fool. The word fool comes from the Old French fol, mad person, from the Latin follis, empty-headed person, from the Latin word for bellows.

5 comments:

  1. It's only the half day here also.
    Thank goodness, because I'm the gullible type.
    Who wouldn't want to see a pig sitting in your pond!

    The gravity prank's hilarious!
    One of my most favourite tricks is the Spaghetti Tree!

    April Fool's Day Hoax - Spaghetti Harvest

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    1. Well, in those days spaghetti was jolly baffling stuff. It used to be sold in long blue paper packets, here in England, but because I'd only ever eaten the tinned variety I could never work out how they kept the tomato sauce from leaking out.

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  2. Glad to hear this has a long history....I like the Spaghetti trees on Panorama ages ago...that was fun.

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  3. This idea fails completely in, and with, me.
    I'm the gullible type and besides too net-nomad to return somewhere and check if it was a prank. So it gets lost...

    I didn't know the "let's see the lions at the tower" (I've never been to London so I'm wondering if there are Lions at The Tower... if so, are they in stone like Alhambra's or the too real for comfort-kind?) but always thought amazing the gravitational "experiment"... Once again it would be lost in me as I'd forget the time they say I should be jumping.

    See? Hopeless!

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    1. Hi Teresa. Thanks very much for your comment. No, there are no lions in the Tower of London now, but there was a zoo there for several centuries.
      Washing them would have been well-worth seeing if you could have found someone silly enough to try it!
      I must say I do love to think of those people jumping in the air hoping to fly just a little. Hope springs eternal in the human breast.

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