by Liz Walter
April 1st is known in many Western countries as ‘April Fool’s Day’. The idea is to trick other people, to try to make them believe things that are not true. If you succeed, you shout ‘April fool!’ at the person you have tricked. In honour of April Fool’s Day, this post will look at some words and phrases connected with this custom.
One important thing is to remember that we play tricks on someone (we don’t ‘make’ or ‘do’ them). The tricks are often practical jokes (using actions instead of words), and they are almost always harmless – they are intended to be fun. Other words for this kind of trick are prank or hoax, although the word ‘hoax’ can also be used for more serious, unpleasant tricks in the same way as the words fraud or deceit.
However, some April Fool’s hoaxes can be very elaborate (complicated and difficult to do). For example, in 1957, the BBC (the most famous TV company in the UK) made a film about Swiss spaghetti farmers, and showed pictures of people picking spaghetti. The film was very realistic and a lot of people were taken in (believed it). Some very gullible people (people who believe everything they are told) contacted the BBC because they wanted to buy spaghetti plants – they didn’t realise that the plants were fake (not real)!
Another very plausible (easy to believe) prank was a newspaper article about ‘FatSox’ – socks that were said to absorb fat from a person’s body and make them thin. Most people saw through the trick (realised it was not real), but many others fell for (believed) it and wanted to get a pair.
One common idiom we use to talk about playing gentle tricks is pull someone’s leg. In fact, when people want to say that it’s obvious that someone is trying to trick them, they sometimes say ‘Pull the other one!’ or even ‘Pull the other one – it’s got bells on!’.
Strangely, in the UK, April Fool’s Day stops at midday – anyone playing a trick after that becomes the fool! And in France, April Fool’s day is called ‘Poisson d’Avril’ – April fish! Do let me know of any April Fool’s customs you have, or any good April Fool’s tricks you know about!