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British culture, British Customs and British Traditions
What is April Fool's Day? | The origins of April Fool's Day
Best Hoaxes -
2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012
Foolery Quotes | Interesting links
With dictionary look up. Double click on any word for its definition.
This section is in advanced English and is only intended to be a guide, not to be taken too seriously!
April 1st is the day people try to trick their friends, to make them behave like fools. Ranging from the elaborate practical joke to the obvious Your zip's undone. If you fall for a prank, the joker gloats "April Fool". No one is exempt until noon, but after that the joking must cease or the prank rebounds on the joker with the rhyme "April Fool is gone and past, You're the bigger fool at last." A favourite joke is to send someone on a fool's errand, a search for something that does not exist, a friend of mine was sent to buy tartan paint once.
In Britain, fooling at this time of year has gone on for centuries, however the origin of the custom still remains obscure. There are several theories to account for it.
One theory is that in Europe, until the sixteenth century, March 25th, the first day of the Vernal Equinox Festival, was New Year's Day. On April 1st, the last day of the festival, people used to give presents to one another. In 1564, Charles IX, the French king, adopting the Gregorian calendar and fixed January 1st as New Year's Day. Those who were against the revision continued to express their complaints by giving presents or paying New Year's visits on April 1st. In the following years, these traditionalists who insisted on celebrating the New Year at its old time were mocked as fools and people would play pranks and tricks on them and called them ` Poisson d'avril ', meaning April Fish. This must have been so much fun that it spread all over the world and people played tricks on everyone, not just the people who didn't accept the new calendar.
Other people say it's just a continuation of a festival in honour of the Celtic god of Mirth but most popular belief is that it's a reaction to the change in season and the start of spring. Whatever its origin, making fools of people on this day remains one of the most flourishing of all British customs.
In Scotland, for example, April Fool's Day is actually celebrated for two days. The second day is devoted to pranks involving the posterior region of the body. It is called Taily Day. The origin of the "kick me" sign can be traced to this observance.
Even the television stations and newspapers get in on the act.
Some of the more famous April Fool's include.
- A report that hawks carrying cameras would be used on the motorways by police to catch speeding motorists.
- A news report about sheep with grass growing on their backs because the weather was so wet.
- Numerous news reports about official sightings of the Loch Ness monster.
- A documentary on Spaghetti was broadcasted a few years ago by the BBC claiming that spaghetti grew on trees .
Some companies get in on the act too - BMW run a spoof advert every year.
- A full-page BMW car advertisement was run on On 1 April 1986, about their new car for driving between Great Britain and the Continent. It was both left and right hand drive, had pedals on both driver's and passenger's side, had a detachable steering wheel which could go either side and a full set of instruments on each side, the unused one being covered by a lovely walnut panel. (I would have bought one!)
- A mechanism that inflated the car tyres automatically was described by BMW one year.
Even the most serious Brits can't resist, the British magazine, New Scientist, often puts April Fool articles in their issue near the 1st of April. The rest of the magazine would have the correct date at the top of the page, but this page would have "1 April" at the top.
Basically don't believe anything you read, hear or are told on April 1st!
Best April Fool's Jokes 2004 - 2012
CBBC's Newsround website claims the planets of the Solar system will be renamed after characters from The Lord of the Rings - Earth will be named Gandalf.
Both The Independent and The Today Programme claimed Brian Eno had crafted an electronic remix of the theme tune of the radio soap opera The Archers to replace the theme that had been used for over 50 years.
An advert by BMW claimed new 'SHEF technology' would allow car drivers to cook their evening meals whilst driving home.
The Sun reported that British Police were fitting hawks with speed cameras to catch lawbreaking motorists.
The Daily Mail included photographs purporting to be the Queen gambling on horse racing amongst her subjects at a local Bookmaker.
Google announced to start interviewing candidates for their new lunar hosting and research center. An email to the address listed return.
MozillaNews reported that Google would be acquiring the Mozilla Foundation, as a whole.
BMW printed a full page ad in a number of national UK newspapers (including The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, and the Daily Mail) saying that in 2007 the EU was to ban right-handed cars being driven in mainland Europe (effectively banning every British car), and that they had invented steering wheel-less technology.
The Today programme on BBC Radio 4 reported that, as a result of an obscure 19th century rule of succession of the House of Saxe-Coburg, Camilla Parker-Bowles's son, Thomas Parker-Bowles, who is older than Prince William, will become second in line to the British throne following the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla on 8th April 2005.
The Guardian reported that Charles, Prince of Wales had been appointed 'Countryside Tsar' by Tony Blair in the run-up to the imminent general election. The ban on foxhunting will be revoked, as long as it is made into a sport of the people.
The Sun reported that EU bureaucrats wanted to ban April Fools' Day because of physical and mental injury caused to the victims of jokes;
The Sun also reported that gypsies had camped in Windsor Castle, claiming a centuries-old right to pitch tents there.
On Newsround, a BBC news program for children, presenter Jake Humphrey announced that David Beckham will not be playing in the 2006 World Cup as his parents are Scottish.
BBC Radio 4's Today Programme announces that the UK Theme Tune was to be replaced with a European Union Theme.
On 2-Ten FM in the United Kingdom, station claims that an elephant is causing traffic problems on the M4.
The Daily Mail announced that the door at Number 10 Downing Street that had been black for 270 years had been painted red by Tony Blair.
The Sun published an article about a penguin found on the River Thames. The article had a comment from Lil Faroop, an anagram of April Fool.
The How Stuff Works website released an article on How Animated Tatoos work.
BMW: As ever BMW UK ran an April Fools' newspaper ad; this year's, in The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer announced a new instant messaging technology that allows drivers to display text (in mirror writing) on their windshield to "communicate advice, warnings, helpful driving tips and salutations ... without even lifting a finger".
Burning Man: The annual festival announced on their website announces that the annual theme will be changed from "The Green Man", a nature related theme, to "Sports", "to celebrate man's relationship to games of skill, and competitive challenges with small round balls".
Christ Church Cathedral, New Zealand: According to a newspaper report, the cathedral was to be pulled down next week due to structural damage, and the site was purchased by a Russian businessman for a hotel and aquarium. The office of Dean of Christchurch received numerous phone calls about the story from concerned locals.
Daily Mirror magazine Celebs on Sunday, claimed that Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair was to become a full time actor once he left Number 10 - starting off as Catherine Tate's Nan character's boyfriend.
DeviantArt released a news article stating that the Help Desk was going to become a pay-only feature. Letters in the article were bolded which spelled out "April fools" and some punctuation, when clicked, linked to an image announcing the joke.
eBay added an "Unbelievable Deals!" section to its home page, with the following list of "Top 10 Deals":
o Cow Licks
o Flying Carpets
o A Clue
o Your Face on Mt. Rushmore
o Dream Date
o Electoral Votes
o Ocean Front Property in Arizona
o A Vowel
o Evaporated Water
The Independent reported that a "Grow-your-own Viagra craze" was occurring, because the active ingredient could be extracted from winter heath.
The Japan Times reported that the famous landmark / meeting place statue of Hachikō had been stolen, and that a sister city in France had offered to replace it with a bronze poodle.
The Mail on Sunday reported 'Council inspectors to demand £5 'carbon offset' for barbecues'.
News of the World published an article announcing the introduction of the square dartboard at this year's PDC UK Open Darts.
PC Magazine discussed "10 Revolutionary Technologies" including a helmet for Wii usage and a Wi-Fi toothbrush.
Ryanair's website has a picture relating to Ryanair space travel, which when clicked went to a "GOTCHA" page with an offer of free flights.
The Sunday Telegraph ran a story about the organisers of the 2012 Olympics in London considering the possibility of sharing the Olympics with Paris due to lack of funding. Also, in the section where the newspaper normally profiles a well-known figure, the well-known figure of the week was Satan. The newspaper also contained an advert for "ParkUp", a new vehicle technology that allowed cars to park up walls to save urban parking congestion.
The Sunday Times Travel section reported the launch of Filipino budget airline "QuikAir" which offered "the world's first commuter service" with middle and aisle seats removed to provide standing room on flights.
Google announced several new services including:
Gmail Paper, a free paper archiving service for any and all Gmail messages.
Google TiSP (beta), the Toilet Internet Service Provider, a free in-home wireless broadband "via fiber-optic cable strung through your local municipal sewage lines.
The How Stuff Works website released an article on How Phone Cell Implants work.
BBC - As part of its promotion of the new BBC iPlayer, the BBC showed alleged video footage backing up the claim that one of its wildlife documentary teams had secured never-before-seen footage showing penguins flying in the Antarctic skies
BMW: announced the Canine Repellent Alloy Protection system.
Daily Express: published a story that the clock faces Big Ben were being taken down and repaired, and a digital clock would stand in its place. It even showed a picture of this.
Daily Mail: published a picture of the British chancellor, Alistair Darling, playing a National Lottery scratchcard in a newsagent
Daily Mirror: announced a new type of dog racing: Dog Racing on Ice.
Google: introduced a scratch-and-sniff feature for certain books on Google books.
Guardian: announced Carla Bruni, France's First Lady, was to head a government initiative to improve style amongst Britons.
The Sun: reported that Nicolas Sarkozy was to enter surgery to make him as tall as his wife, Carla Bruni, after being subject to ridicule over his height during his trip to London.
Virgin Media: announced that the US was to scrap the dollar and join the Euro.
Google introduced CADIE a "Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity" stating that "For several years now a small research group has been working on some challenging problems in the areas of neural networking, natural language and autonomous problem-solving. Last fall this group achieved a significant breakthrough: a powerful new technique for solving reinforcement learning problems, resulting in the first functional global-scale neuro-evolutionary learning cluster." It linked to a blog that showed Cadie had a liking for pandas.
The BBC announced the BBC iPlayer Toaster Edition. Which looked at first glance like a regular toaster, but with the front panel sporting a 7" 1280x800 OLED display.
YouTube invited some users to look at a new "viewing experience", which actually caused the whole layout including the video they were watching to flip upside down.
Ice cream company Ben & Jerry's created a fake Web site, Cyclone Dairy, which claimed to only sell milk coming from cloned cows.
The Guardian announced that it was shutting down both its print edition and Web site, turning instead to a Twitter-only format. "Experts say any story can be told in 140 characters," they said.
Hotels.com ran an advertisement offering hotel room bookings on the moon which would be offered on European websites starting at £800 a night.
Car manufacturer BMW announced that it had developed "Magnetic Tow Technology," an ingenious new system that locks on to the car in front via an enhanced magnetic beam and once your BMW is attached you are free to release your foot from the accelerator and turn off your engine."
The Taipei Times, one of three English-language dailies in Taiwan, fooled many readers with a report that two pandas donated by China to the Taipei Zoo were, in fact, brown forest bears dyed black and white.
The Daily Mail ran a doctored photo of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, walking out of a sexy lingerie store. She had recently been embroiled in a scandal after her husband downloaded two pay-per-view adult films, the cost of which Smith then included as part of an MP expenses claim.
The London Telegraph revealed a plan to generate electricity by harnessing the power of fish migrating upstream. "The project, codenamed 'Finetics', builds on Japanese technology that captures energy from people walking over pressure sensitive mats at train stations.
Research found that a typical salmon, which zips through waters at a top speed of 12 metres (40ft) per second, can over a 100m (330ft) stretch generate enough electricity to make 18 cups of tea, while the more shy rudd will only trigger enough power for three cups.
Multiplied many times over by the millions of fish that thrive in rivers and waters across England and Wales, the Environment Agency scientists estimate the amount of electricity generated could power around 30,000 homes a year."
British supermarket chain Waitrose placed ads in newspapers announcing the availability of a new fruit, the pinana (a combination of pineapple and banana). The text of the ad read, "Pinanas. Fresh in today and exclusive to Waitrose. If you find that all Waitrose pinanas have sold out, don't worry, there's 50% off our essential Waitrose strawberries."
Cork radio station RedFM reported that U2 sould play live on the rooftop of a shopping centre in Cork: Hundreds of U2 fans rushed over, only to find a tribute band called U2opia.
A Virus/Worm, called Conficker spread to millions of computers, releasing personal info and deleting files. This was supposed to be a joke, but no one was laughing.
The Sun revealed a "revolutionary new printing technique," which allows newspapers to print "the world's first flavoured page", using "hyrdocolloids," which allegedly "collide with each other to spread over your tastebuds". The tabloid then invited readers to lick a blank section of the paper (page 17, if you fancy trying it out) and email in their "taste test results". Ugh!
The Independent carried a fake advert on page 5, for a "New Miracle Shirt" developed to combat body odour. The garment purportedly contained a "unique neutralizing agent" – "Slip it on and Bang! – the BO is gone". Although quite subtle, a clue that the advert was not entirely sincere was given by the apparently random decision to get the male model to wear an eyepatch. There was even a professional looking website that still exists, hosted by Gillette anti perspirant. Try clicking on it. http://www.miracle-shirt.com
And in the Independent again, there was a report that the Circle line was to become "Large Hadron Collider II", saying "London Underground is in talks with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) about the possibility of using the 23km tunnel of the Circle Line to house a new type of particle accelerator similar to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva."
The Daily Telegraph carried a story on page 3, and on its website, that ferrets were to be used to deliver broadband to rural areas. The animals had supposedly been used by Virgin Media for more than a year to help lay cables for its broadband service, by wearing little jackets fitted with a microchip able to analyse any breaks or damage in the underground network. Quote: "For hundreds of years, ferrets have helped humans in various jobs. Our decision to use them is due to their strong nesting instinct, their long, lean build and inquisitive nature, and for their ability to get down holes. We initially kept the trial low-key as we wanted to assess how well the ferrets fitted into our operations before revealing this enterprising scheme. Ferrets have been used to run cables through hard-to-reach places in the past. Events organisers in London used them to run television and sound cables outside Buckingham Palace for the wedding of the Prince of Wales and the late Diana, Princess of Wales." Squeak squeak.
Google announced new notification plans for Google Wave, promising that the company would send a human to tell you when there was a new wave in your inbox.
Bob Lefsetz, an American music industry figure, published a letter that Apple had bought the Beatles.
BBC Radio 4 ran a story about how Shakespeare was French, claiming a locket given to him carried aFrench inscription from his mother, Marie Ardennes, including a lock of Mary Queen of Scot's hair, found in the excavation at his last home in Stratford. They even carried out an interview with Paul Edmondson, Head of Education at The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and a pretend French MP claiming him as long lost son of la Patrie.
Here's the blurb:
Could William Shakespeare be French?
New evidence unearthed at the site of his Stratford home suggests that the mother of England's most famous son was French.
The French Ministry of Culture has told the Today programme that it wants to honour the playwright as a member of France's own pantheon of great writers.
Nicola Stanbridge reports on the Shakespeare's hidden past.
Finally the BBC website carried a page of stories that could have been April Fool hoaxes, but weren't.
According to The Sun, animal behaviour experts had given gorillas iPads to stay happy and alert. n the experiment – monitored by Apple – gorillas had apparently quickly mastered how to use the device, 'and seem fascinated by the colours and pictures.' Port Lympne animal park's head keeper revealed: 'Keeping gorillas stimulated has been a challenge – but they are fascinated by these things.' Animal expert Terry Nutkins was even on hand to offer his opinion, but readers were probably suspicious when it was claimed none of the electronic devices had been broken.
The Daily Mirror exposed the latest plans for the Coalition cuts – a tax on fresh air. Rural areas were due to be taxed more under the Air Tariff Control system, designed to fund air quality improvement initiatives. The Lake District was due to be in the highest tax bracket, while Manchester, Birmingham and London were earmarked for tax rebates because of high pollution levels. A 'senior air technician' at the Environment Agency said of the plans: 'Air is natural but, just like water, it is a finite resource that we have to manage sensibly.'
My favourite in 2011 was The Daily Express, where an announcement from a British company ‘Micro Scooters’ advertised their latest product to be the ‘Micro Zimmer’. This zimmer-frame-meets-skateboard was purposely built for adrenaline-seeking pensioners. The Micro scooter could allegedly reach speeds of up to 10MPH and was capable of preforming basic skating stunts such as the ‘bunny hop’ and ‘ollies’. Designers took the needs of their target audience very seriously by building in useful features such as ‘a loud horn’, ‘glasses holders’ and ‘shopping bags’.
And of course it wasn't just the newspapers getting in on the act.
A mock BBC News site reported that a coalition of fathers' groups were taking legal action against online parenting network Mumsnet for gender discrimination and breaches of the Human Rights Act. In the report, written by Tok Enmale, fathers were revealed to be launching a class action in response to the prominent position of Mumsnet in the media. A 'spokesman' for the group, Fathers Against Discrimination (FADs), said: ' It seems grossly unfair that mothers are constantly asked their opinion and dads are not, purely on the basis of gender.'
The vouchers website Groupon claimed to have purchased the intellectual trademark for April Fool's Day, thus giving it the official new title of Groupon Presents April Fools’ Day™. Explaining its actions, Groupon said it "gives consumers more choices and better options" and that "You'll never again be confused by other corporations' April 1 pranks, since Groupon will be taking friendly, but swift, and hostile, legal action against any nonlicensed Groupon Presents April Fools' Day™ joke." They also sent Cease and Desist letters to YouTube and others that are performing 'illegal pranks'.
You can read the letter here:-
YouTube celebrated its centenary.
They changed the logo to infer that the website was founded in 1911, and users were given the choice to change the look of videos to make them silent and sepia-toned. A collection of spoof videos from that year that mimiced popular viral videos of today was also posted
Google got in on the act too, by saying they had found a way of combining your webcam and Gmail to dispense with outdated technology such as a keyboard and a mouse. By standing a safe distance from your computer, you were supposedly able to issue commands by using different body shapes. With a helpful motion guide, Google said that "movements are designed to be simple and intuitive for people of all skill levels". Leaning to your left meant you went to your inbox, while bringing your right arm up to your head with a closed fist replied to the email. When you clicked to try Gmail motion, you got the message, "Gmail Motion doesn't actually exist. At least not yet... "
Sir Richard Branson released information about Virgin's latest tourism-based business venture. Virgin news announced that the company had bought Pluto and would attempt to have it reinstated as a planet. Sir Richard said: "Virgin has expanded into many territories over the years, but we have never had our own planet before. This could pave the way for a new age in space tourism."
The company said they had created a special vehicle - due to be launched in 2012 - which would be capable of 're-structuring' Pluto by leaching on to asteroids and 'bulking up' the planet in order to reach the required planetary mass.
IGN created a trailer for an upcoming TV show, showing the gritty side of the Harry Potter universe. Called "The Aurors" it is about an elite unit of wizards fighting the most dangerous magical criminals across America.
IKEA Australia announced their latest product as the ‘IKEA Hundstol’, also known as a highchair for dogs. News of the product hit IKEA Australia’s Facebook page, complete with a link to a Youtube video where an IKEA designer discussed the safety features of the 'aesthetically pleasing' chair.
BMW announced a special Royal Edition of the BMW M3 Coupe to celebrate the upcoming royal wedding. The special edition motor was available in three colours - Regal Red, Bridal White and Imperial Blue. This clever little prank was quite easy to fall for after seeing some of the quirky Royal Wedding memorabilia which surfaced in the run up to the April event. In the press release, the classic M3 logo had been turned upside-down to read "Will"
Anyone interested in the car was asked to contact BMW via email at email@example.com....
Politics was a big theme in 2012.
The Sunday Telegraph claimed that the Tories were launching a hunt to replace recently-departed "blue skies" thinker
Steve Hilton using the format of a new reality TV show.
The Observer said David Cameron had asked the Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder to come to Downing Street to advise him on issues of class. (Hubby and I fell for this one.)
The Independent on Sunday reported on police stations holding "hosepipe amnesties" for the public to hand in garden hoses
ahead of a hosepipe ban in south-east England (the hosepipe ban was real, just the amnesty was a joke).
The Sunday Times' Style magazine hoped to catch out readers with its double-page spread on "Lemac", a new Middle-Eastern
beauty treatment where customers are injected with cells from the humps of camels.
Readers of The Sun on Sunday reported that Arsenal football club was releasing its own fragrance, which took its aromas from the Emirates Stadium, including the unmistakable odour of Arsene Wenger's leather seat in the dugout.
The Mail on Sunday claimed that, in response to the so-called pasty tax (no the pasty tax wasn't the joke, that bit was true), the Government was planning a new duty to be added to "chilled champagne".
In a similar vein STV in Scotland claimed that there was to be a tax on Irn Bru.
ThinkGeek.com released a prank gadget which puts a set of the plastic toy Hungry Hippos, supposedly costing $29.99, on top of an iPad, running the Hungry Hippo app which would allow people to go back to their childhood while staying tech-smart.
Google's offering was an announcement that they were releasing a version of Google Maps for the ‘long neglected’ Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
YouTube launched The YouTube Collection, taking the site off the internet and bringing it into users' living rooms. Marketing it as "the complete YouTube experience completely offline," they offered, "a way to literally hold YouTube in your hand". . In the scheme, users would be shipped shrink-wrapped boxes of all of the DVDs that it takes store the information held by the video-sharing website. The first instalment would come via 175 moving vans, and then get additional updates every week as more videos are posted to the site.
Companies got in on the act, with the usual suspects:-
Ikea announced they would be selling allen keys for left handed people.
As part of the company's partnership with the London 2012 Olympic games, BMW announced a new driverless car that would act as a running coach for athletes.
Toshiba debuted its new tablet, “Shapes”, which come in the shape of an oblong, rhombus or love heart and promised to deliver a more personalised way of consuming information.
And finally the BBC announced new legislation that would give the British intelligence agency, GCHQ, the power to monitor the phone calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK. Unfortunately this wasn't an April's Fool.
"The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day.
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment."
Poor Robin's Almanac, 1790
A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. Douglas Adams
April fool, n. The March fool with another month added to his folly. Ambrose Bierce - The Devil's Dictionary
It is the ability to take a joke, not make one, that proves you have a sense of humor. Max Eastman
A sense of humor is the ability to understand a joke-and that the joke is oneself. Clifton Paul Fadiman
Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee,
And I'll forgive Thy great big one on me.
Robert Frost - "Cluster of Faith," 1962
I hope life isn't a big joke, because I don't get it. Jack Handey
One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said. "Disneyland burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down, he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late. Jack Handey
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. Abraham Lincoln
A man always blames the woman who fools him. In the same way he blames the door he walks into in the dark. Henry Louis Mencken
The aim of a joke is not to degrade the human being, but to remind him that he is already degraded. George Orwell
Even the gods love jokes. Plato
I have great faith in fools - self-confidence, my friends call it. Edgar Allan Poe
The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected. Will Rogers
Men reach their sexual peak at eighteen. Women reach theirs at thirty-five. Do you get the feeling that God is playing a practical joke? Rita Rudner
Suppose the world were only one of God's jokes, would you work any the less to make it a good joke instead of a bad one? George Bernard Shaw
Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. Mark Twain
April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. Mark Twain- Pudd'nhead Wilson, 1894
Real friends are those who, when you feel you've made a fool of yourself, don't feel you've done a permanent job. Anonymous
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Chinese Proverb
Don't give cherries to pigs or advice to fools. Irish Proverb
We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. Japanese Proverb
It is better to weep with wise men than to laugh with fools. Spanish Proverb
If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings. Welsh Proverb
He who is born a fool is never cured. Proverb