Thursday, 17 March 2011

The History and Origins of April Fools' Day.

Information sourced from: 
Fact File: 

Also known as: All Fools' Day.
Type: Non-religious, cultural.
Signficance: Practical pranks/Jokes.
Date: April 1st, annual.

April Fools' Day is celebrated in the Western world on April 1st every year- it has never been regarded as a holiday, but more a day for general pranks and tolerance of jokes. 
The day is usually celebrated by the practice of pranks, and other hoaxes or a humourous nature.

The earliest recorded association between April 1st and foolishness was found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1392).

Famous April Fool's jokes...

1. Left Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an advertisement is USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper burger for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side. Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the "old" right-handed burger.
2. In 1983, Australian millionaire businessman Dick Smith claimed to have towed an iceberg from Antartica to Sydney Harbour. He used a barge covered with white plastic and fire extinguisher foam to convince witnesses.

By radio stations...

1. Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect: In 1976, British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore told listeners of BBC Radio 2 that the unique alignment of two planets would result in an upward gravitational pull making people lighter at precisely 9:47am that day. He invited the auidence to jump in the air and experience "a strange floating sensation". Dozens of listeners phoned in to say the experiment had worked. 

2. Phone call: In 1998, UK presented Nic Tuff of West Midlands radio station pretended to be the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, when he called the then South African President, Nelson Mandela for a chat. It was only at the end of the call when Nic asked Nelson what he was doing for April Fools' Day that the line went dead.

By television stations...
1. Spaghetti trees: The BBC television programme Panorama, ran a famous hoaz in 1957, showing Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. They had claimed that the despised pest, the spaghetti weevil, had been eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees. It was in fact filmed in St Albans, UK.

2. In 1962, the Swedish national television did a 5- minute special on how one could get colour TV by placing a nylon stocking in front of the TV. A rather in-depth description on the physics behind the phenomenon was included.

3. Smell o-vision: In 1965, the BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odour over the airwaves to all viewers. Many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report on the trial's success. In 2007, the BBC website repeated an online version of the hoax.

4. In 1980, the BBC reported a proposed change to the famous clock tower, Big Ben. The reporters stated that the clock would go digital.

5. In 2004, British breakfast show GMTV produced a story claiming that Yorkshire Water were trialing a new 'diet tap water' that had already helped one customer lose a stone and a half in four months. After heralding the trial as successful, it was claimed that a third tap would be added to kitchen sinks, allowing customers easy access to the water. Following the story, Yorkshire Water received 10,000 enquiries from viewers.

6. In 2006, the BBC reported that the door to No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the UK, had been painted red. They showed footage of workmen carrying a red door. Red was the official colour of the political party which formed the government at the time. The same story was also reported in the British newspaper, The Daily Mail, which credited the new design to April Fewell. The door is in fact black.

7. In 2008, the BBC reported on a newly discovered colony of flying penguins. An elaborate video segment was even produced, featuring Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, walking with the penguins in Antartica, and following their flight to the Amazon rainforest.


1. Water on Mars: In 2005, a news story was posted on the official NASA website purpoting to have pictures of water on Mars. The picture actually was just a picture of a glass of water on a Mars Candy bar.
(actually hilarious)

2. On Youtube, in 2008, all featured videos on YouTube's fron tpage hyperlinked to the Rickroll. (The looped video of Rick Astley's 'Never gonna give you up'). The prank began with international YouTube portals before appearing on the main site.

3. deviantART's most infamous April Fool'd joke was in 2008, when all members' icons were changed to "So I hed u liek mudkipz". In 2010, each member's avatar was changed to any of a set icons depicting Team Jacob, Team Edward, Legend of the Seeker, and Lady Gaga, along with signatures to match the icons. 

4. Expedia ran a prank on 1st April 2009, offering flights to Mars, This was internally known as Project Dawnstar. 

Real news on April Fools' Day...
(stories that have been mistaken for April Fools' jokes)

1. The death of King George II of Greece on April 1, 1947.

2. On April 1st, 1984, singer Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his father. Originally, people assumed that it was a fake news story, especially considering the bizarre aspect of the father being the murderer. 

3. On April 1, 2010, Charlie Sheen announced he was considering leaving Two and a Half Men (as well as that "dying is for fools"...oh Charlie...) 

Really interesting facts and stories- I'm definately keen to imagine some scenarios and make-believe stories for our Commuication is a Virus- tell a lie convincingly project (see my 'design practice' blog for more information!)

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