April Fool’s Day

April 1st is called April Fool’s Day in English, and it’s a day when people play jokes on other people. They can be small, personal jokes or tricks, or big “industrial-size” hoaxes by newspapers or television channels like the BBC.

How or why April Fool’s Day started is far from clear. Its origins are lost in the past, but it seems to be related to a time when New Year’s Day was celebrated on or around 1st April. (From 1582 the western calendar was changed, and the year was deemed to start on 1st January.)

Many newspapers, magazines and television and radio shows have played huge practical jokes on their audiences over the years, but probably the most famous, and arguably best, was the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. In 1957 the BBC news show Panorama announced that Swiss farmers were having an excellent “spaghetti harvest”, thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the “spaghetti weevil”. The TV programme showed Swiss farmers pulling down strands of spaghetti from the “spaghetti trees”. Many viewers believed the show and phoned the BBC to ask how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.

At 12:01 AM on April 1st 2008, EnglishClub published an article about a proposed United Nations plan to abolish all languages except English. The article referred to the impact on climate change that translating so many languages had, translation difficulties for the CIA in America’s War on Terror, and the dangers of multiple personality disorder caused by learning more than one language. It was, of course, a hoax, and some readers recognized it as such and expressed great amusement (and relief). But many readers accepted the article at face value and complained bitterly about the “stupidity” of such a plan.

By Josef Essberger for EnglishClub April 2008
Josef started teaching English as a foreign language in 1991 and founded EnglishClub for learners and teachers in 1997.


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