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Explaining complicated subject matter simply since 1986

No one knows how April Fools’ started. One story says it began during the First Century, when court jesters and fools told Roman emperor Constantine they could do a better job of running the empire. Amused, the emperor allowed a jester to be king for one day. Another story comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where the fox tricks the rooster on March 32nd. One group believes it began in 1582, when the Pope ordered the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. This moved New Year’s Day from April 1 to January 1. Those who didn’t get the news – and that was a lot of people back in those days – continued to celebrate the start of the new year on April 1st. Those in the know made fun of them by sending them to look for things that did not exist (a fool’s errand) or tricking them into believing something false. In a story with a biblical twist, in 1769 the London Public Advertiser traced the origin to Noah pranking the raven. 

No matter the origin, here are a few notable April Fools’ pranks

  • In 1835, The New York Sun published an article claiming astronomers had discovered life on the moon, and the nation was gripped with moon fever.
  • In 1957, a two-minute BBC segment introduced viewers to a family of Italian spaghetti farmers. Hundreds called in wanting to know where to buy the trees. You can watch the YouTube video here. 
  • In 1959, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals called for animals to wear clothing. A spokesperson appeared on the Today Show, telling people “A nude horse is a rude horse.”
  • in 1980, the BBC reported Big Ben would change to a digital display and its clock hands would be given away to the first four callers. Switchboards were flooded.
  • In 1996, Taco Bell announced it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Patriots were indignant.
  • In 1998, Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” that was designed for left-handed Americans by rotating all the condiments exactly 180 degrees. Thousands of people lined up to buy it.
  • In 2007, Google introduced TiSP (Toilet Internet Service Provider), which provided free broadband via the sewer system. Chat rooms were filled with truth-seekers.

Half of us like April Fools’ Day and half of us don’t

A panel of distinguished scientists determined the difference of opinion is likely to be related to which side of the prank you are on.

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