The W Blog

The Origins of April Fools

It’s said that April Fool’s originated in the 1500s when France switched from the Julian calendar, in which the new year was celebrated on April 1, to the Gregorian calendar, which made January 1 the beginning of the new year. Anybody who continued to celebrate the new year on April 1st was branded an “April Fool”. Except in France they shout, “Poisson d’Avril!” which means, literally, “April Fish!” (“April fish” refers to a young fish, thus one easily caught.) Ok. In Scotland, where April 1 is devoted to spoofs involving the buttocks and who’s citizens are credited with inventing the classic “Kick Me!” sign, they refer to the pranked as an April “gowk”, the Scottish word for cuckoo.

Some of the best pranks through the ages:

The Madison Capital-Times ran a doctored photo on April 1, 1933 showing the Wisconsin state capitol in ruins due to a series of unusual explosions caused by all the hot air produced in the chambers.

On March 31, 1940, in order to publicize a lecture at Philadelphia’s Fels Planetarium titled, “How Will the World End?”, the institute’s press agent issued a press release stating that the world would end the next day (April Fools’ Day) at precisely 3pm. After an outcry from panicked citizens, 3pm was the exact hour in which the press agent lost his job.

In 1957, the BBC reported on “The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest” which showed staged footage of workers plucking limp pasta from trees.

In 1992, NPR broadcast an interview with “Richard Nixon” in which he announced he was running for president again, proclaiming, “I never did anything wrong, and I won’t do it again!”

In 1996, Taco Bell announced that they had purchased the naming rights to the Liberty Bell, which would henceforth be known as the “Taco Liberty Bell”.

Here are some more good ones: