Today is April Fools’ Day, a holiday celebrating practical jokes of all kinds. The British collection of folk wisdom known as Poor Robin’s Almanac(1662) says: “The first of April, some do say, Is set apart for All Fools’ Day.”
One theory about the origin of April Fools’ Day is that it started in France in 1582. Up until then, New Year’s Day was celebrated on April 1st, but when Europe adopted the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Day was moved to January 1st. At the time, news of such things traveled slowly, and it took many years for everyone to get up to speed. People who continued to celebrate New Years on April 1st came to be known as April Fools.
John Updike said, “Looking foolish does the spirit good.”
On this day in 2004 that Google released Gmail to the public. Many people thought it was a joke: It offered a whole gigabyte of storage, which was exponentially greater than what was offered by other free e-mail services at the time.
Gmail has played a number of memorable pranks on April Fools’ Day. On April 1, 2006, Google announced a new dating service, called Google Romance. They said, “When you think about it, love is just another search problem.”
The news media have been responsible for some of the greatest April Fools’ Day pranks in history. In 1977, the London newspaper The Guardian published a seven-page supplement commemorating the anniversary of the independence of San Serriffe, a completely imaginary small island nation located in the Indian Ocean. The article described the geography of the nation – it consisted of two main islands, which together formed the shape of a semi-colon; the northern one was called “Upper Caisse” and the southern one, “Lower Caisse.”
The island’s natives were of “Flong” ethnicity, but there were also the descendents of Europeans settlers who had colonized the nation: “colons.” The two groups had intermarried over the years; their offspring were “semi-colons.”
The capital of the nation was Bodoni and the national bird, the “Kwote.”
In the supplement, there were even advertisements from real companies. Texaco announced a contest whose winner would receive a two-week vacation to the island’s Cocobanana Beach. Kodak placed an ad saying, “If you have a picture of San Serriffe, we’d like to see it.”
The Guardian was flooded with calls for more information. Travel agents complained to the editor because the news had been disruptive to their businesses – customers refused to believe that the islands were only imaginary. The Guardian has reused the prank on a few other April Fools’ Days – in 1978, 1980, and 1999 – and each time the island has changed location, moving from the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea to the North Atlantic.
On this day in 1992, National Public Radio announced that Richard Nixon was running for president again. The news came on the show Talk of the Nation and included excerpts of Nixon’s speech announcing his candidacy, in which he said, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” It also featured analysis from real political experts. Manypeople expressed their indignation. In the second half of the show, it was revealed a practical joke, and that Canadian comedian Richard Little had impersonated Nixon.
We have many excellent joke books, a good humour/humor section, and much more in the Friends’ Bookstore. See you there!