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Published On: Tue, Apr 1st, 2014

Examining the origin and jokes of April Fool’s Day across the world

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april-fools-day-pranks-jokes1All over the world, people celebrate the first of April by making up different pranks to fool their targets. This report by Evelyn Okakwu, to analyses the origin of April fool’s Day, and how it has become accepted world over.

The origin of April Fool’s Day has never truly been stated. However a historian, Professor Joseph Boskin, of the Boston University had during an interview with a medium known as the Associated Press in New York stated that he knew about how the day began. According to him the day was traced to an event that had occurred in the fourth century in the Roman Empire, during the reign of Emperor Constantine the first. Professor Boston said that during the reign of Emperor Constantine the 1st of the Roman empire; a court jester had boasted to Emperor Constantine that the fools and jesters of the court could rule the kingdom better than the Emperor. In response, Constantine had decreed that the court fools would be given a chance to prove this boast, and he set aside one day of the year upon which a fool would rule the kingdom.

The first year Constantine appointed a jester named Kugel as ruler, and Kugel immediately decreed that only the absurd would be allowed in the kingdom on that day. Therefore the tradition of April Fools was born.

After that interview, most News media throughout the country reprinted the Associated Press (AP) story. But what the AP reporter who had interviewed Professor Boskin for the story hadn’t realized was that Boskin was lying. Not a word of the story was true, which Boskin admitted a few weeks later. Boston University issued a statement apologizing for the joke, and many papers published corrections.

Thus the story about how the April fool’s Day began was still yet to be uncovered.

Yet, many people across the world have not relented in their bid to get the fun of the April fool’s day delight. Hear a few of some interesting pranks pooled by individuals and the public across the world on April fool’s day

The left-Hand Whopper

This joke pooled by a restaurant in the USA known as Burger King, had to do with a publication in which the fast food restaurant published a full page advertisement in its April 1st edition of a paper in the United States known as USA Today, announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a “Left-Handed Whopper” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, among others.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, “many others requested their own ‘right handed’ version.”

If you think that story that was pulled in the United States was funny, this one published by the British Broadcasting Cooperation of Nigeria would certainly tickle your interest.

Flying Penguins:

Known as the flying penguins, the story was published on the 1st of April 2008, the BBC announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic for its natural history series Miracles of Evolution had captured footage of Adélie penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which became one of the most viewed videos on the internet. Presenter Terry Jones explained that, instead of huddling together to endure the Antarctic winter, these penguins took to the air and flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they “spend the winter basking in the tropical sun.” A follow-up video explained how the BBC created the special effects of the flying penguins.

Another of such story was captioned “Man Flies By Own Lung Power” In April 1934, many American newspapers (including The New York Times) printed a photograph of a man flying through the air by means of a device powered only by the breath from his lungs. Accompanying articles excitedly described this miraculous new invention. The man, identified as German pilot Erich Kocher, blew into a box on his chest. This activated rotors that created a powerful suction effect, lifting him aloft. Skis on his feet served as landing gear, and a tail fin allowed him to steer. What the American papers didn’t realize was that the “lung-power motor” was a joke. The photo had first appeared in the April Fool’s Day edition of the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung. It made its way to America thanks trough Hearst’s International News Photo agency which not only fell for the hoax but also distributed it to all its U.S. subscribers. In the original article, the pilot’s name was spelled “Erich Koycher,” which was a pun on the German word “keuchen,” meaning to puff or wheeze.

This other story was quite similar to the events that have been happening in the country.

The April fool prank pooled on the 1st of April 1915 was captioned “Bombs Away”. The story has it that on April 1, 1915, in the midst of World War I, a French aviator flew over a German camp and dropped what appeared to be a huge bomb. The German soldiers immediately scattered in all directions, but no explosion followed. After some time, the soldiers crept back and gingerly approached the bomb. They discovered it was actually a large football with a note tied to it that read, “April Fool!”

A joke like that would certainly not be taken lightly in today’s Nigeria.

Another one that is quite synonymous with events that have trailed this country is the story that was publisiced on the 31st of March 1940, with the team; “World to End Tomorrow” On March 31, 1940 the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia issued a press release stating that the world would end the next day. The release was picked up by radio station KYW which broadcast the following message: “Your worst fears that the world will end are confirmed by astronomers of Franklin Institute, Philadelphia. Scientists predict that the world will end at 3 P.M. Eastern Standard Time tomorrow. This is no April Fool joke. Confirmation can be obtained from Wagner Schlesinger, director of the Fels Planetarium of this city.” The public reaction was immediate. Local authorities were flooded with frantic phone calls. The panic only subsided after the Franklin Institute assured people that it had made no such prediction. The prankster responsible for the press release turned out to be William Castellini, the Institute’s press agent. He had intended to use the fake release to publicize an April 1st lecture at the institute titled “How Will the World End?” Soon afterwards, the Institute dismissed Castellini.

Back here in Nigeria, a couple of years back when the Nigerian Television Authority began transmitting the programme; ‘AM express” it had a special April first edition where two reporters, a male and a female tried to deceive a set of other passengers in a bus. The drama staged by these NTA staff had to do with a woman asking her partner (The man) to pay her the money he had promised to pay her after a night session with her. The woman persisted on the claim that the man had not paid her the given sum he had promised to pay her while the man insisted that he had done his best. They continued arguing till some of the other occupants in the Bus decided to force the man to pay the woman what he had promised. It was at that point that the woman and the man broke the news about their April fool prank to the people. They therefore told the gang of onlookers that all of them were April fools for yielding to the trick.

Also the pranks pooled by the April first delight lovers, have a way of bringing families together. In this conversation with Albert Akpota of the Peoples Daily newspaper, he explained how his wife once pulled a prank on him on an April fool’s day. “ My wife once told me on an April Fool’s day, that she was going to serve a very good meal. She made so much noise about it that I was so eager to eat the food. When the time eventually came, she served the food at the dining table and I got set to eat it. When I opened the plate, I discovered that what my wife had put in the plate were some mangoes instead of the delicacy I expected. What she forgot however, was that I enjoyed eating them and that I was already a fan of mangoes so I ate the fruit with great delight. Even now she has promised another prank. But she does not know that I also have my own plan fully outlined for her.

Also this young man who wants to remain anonymous says he had a very interesting, but equally annoying experience, during one of his days in the secondary school. The experience he adds is quite associated to the April fool’s day prank. He speaks: “It was during one of our exams period in the secondary school in Abuja. A friend of mine had called me on the 29th of April and said that the paper we had on the first of April had leaked. The boy made me shift focus from what I was reading to what he had told me and we even went to ask a tutor, who was also a friend of his. I did not know they had planned it together so I believed them. I stopped reading my general note and crammed everything in the one he had told me was meant to be the exam question.

Unfortunately, on the day of the exams when we were about to enter the hall, the boy told me that the whole thing was an April fool prank. Hence the whole story was not true. I felt bad about this. But it was April fool what else could I do?

Indeed the April fool’s day has a way of affecting people with the sole aim of creating amusement. What is left to be said however is that the jokes should continue in the line of creating positive amusement which is the beauty of any reasonable joke.


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