It’d be foolish to forget these legendary April Fools’ pranks.
April Fools’ pranks are a tradition around the world, in various forms. The French have Poisson d’Avril (Day of the Fish), when young people will stick a paper fish on the back of the unsuspecting. Brazilians have Dia da mentira (Day of the Lie), which warrants less explanation. And we, of course, have April Fools’ Day.
The origins of April Fools’ Day are less certain than the premise: playing tricks and pranks. Speculated sources range from as far and wide as Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th story collection, The Canterbury Tales, to changes in the old Roman calendar, whose new year was celebrated around April 1, close to the spring equinox (a change one would be “foolish” to forget). My favorite origin story is probably the one offered by a professor of history at Boston University, Joseph Boskin, in 1983. He claimed that the day commemorated when Constantine, the Roman emperor, gave over his powers as ruler to his jester, Kugel, to see what he’d make of the job. Believable as this story may sound (enough, indeed, to convince the Associated Press to publish it), it was a hoax. April Fools’ pranks about April Fools’ pranks — you can’t get much more meta-funny than that, really.
And here are some more of the greatest to date:
1. Google’s Self-Driving Bicycles
This one is by no means the most unbelievable, until you watch the video. You were thinking it would be some kind of quad-bike affair, right? Oh, no, these are real push pedalers, only they’re automated, somehow… Google obviously has the resources to make legit videos, so it’s honestly quite convincing (at least, to gullible, lil’ ol’ me over here). I think it’s the people they get to “endorse” them that gives the game away. That mom was smiling way too much about them. But then, Dutch people do love cycling, like, a lot.
2. The Eclipse That Reduced Gravity
In 1976 the astronomer Patrick Moore announced during an interview on the BBC that a rare alignment of Pluto and Saturn would temporarily reduce gravity, causing people to float into the air. Shortly following 9:47 a.m., when it was reported the change would occur, listeners phoned in to share their experiences with the BBC. One lady described how she and 11 friends had “wafted from their chairs and orbited gently around the room.” She was lying through her teeth, of course. I suppose she, and all the others, must have just had crippling FOMO.
3. Burger King’s Left-Handed Whopper and Chicken-Fries Shake.
So this one technically counts as two, but it’s the same company, so what the heck. Burger King advertisers are quite the band of merry pranksters, it seems. In 1998, USA Today played host to a full-page Burger King advertisement enticing customers with a new addition to their menu: the Left-Handed Whopper. Apparently thousands of people tried to order it, so I guess it worked. The idea was that all the condiments were rotated exactly 180 degrees to suit all those southpaws out there. Though, that makes no sense, when you think about it. Next: the Chicken Fries Shake is one item. There are no commas missing — which speaks for itself, really.
4. Spaghetti Trees
This one seems to be a lot of people’s favorite April Fools’ prank, bizarre and understated as it is. As the story goes, back in 1957 the BBC ran an investigative piece on how Swiss farmers were having a particularly bountiful year, due to the elimination of the spaghetti weevil and mild weather, with their spaghetti-tree pasta crop. Even the director-general of the BBC at the time, Ian Jacob, admitted to having been fooled, looking up “spaghetti” in his encyclopedia (no Wiki back then). Back in the days when you trusted television, eh?
5. Redefining Pi
No, not the warm, round one! This one: 3.14159265… So, this is one to enrage all you math nerd rationalists out there. In 1998, a physicist by the name of Mark Boslough, writing for the journal New Mexicans for Science and Reason claimed that Alabama legislators were trying to pass a bill to redefine Pi from the “irrational” 3.141 to the wholesome, “biblical value” of 3. As you’d imagine, many in the science community were outraged. Of course, it was a hoax. Which is, again, maybe a shame — math homework would have been a whole damn lot easier.
6. Jobs for Babies
Last year ZipRecruiter, a job search engine, tapped into something that truly deserves the title of revolutionary — a real “the future has arrived” moment. They’d seen a gap in the market or, rather, a gap in the workforce: babies. From construction worker to babysitter, they’re all being advertised — all the jobs we always knew could be done better by toddlers. Check out the job description for Baby Philosopher: “from Ferber to Gerber, the ideal candidate will be eager to address age-old baby philosophy problems with scholarship and integrity.”
7. Flying Penguins
We’ve all wished we could fly. To see the world from above, or just skip traffic. Well, apparently so did these penguins — and their wishes were granted. In 2008, former Monty Python comedian and historian Terry Jones was featured in a BBC video segment that advertised an upcoming documentary on a newly discovered colony of airborne nuns — wait, sorry, I mean flying penguins. Apparently the little guys would hang out in Antarctica and then, like their feathered counterparts, migrate north to the Amazon Rainforest for the winter. Quite the commute.
8. Fake Dictionary Additions
Last year the folks at Oxford Dictionaries took it upon themselves to enshrine some of the year’s events into the annals of fake history by concocting entries for trending topics and pop-practices. “LOYO,” an abbreviation meaning “laughing on your own” found its place among them. “Fanishment,” likewise, was searchable for a minute, a noun meaning “the state of being blocked by a celebrity on social media.” To be “Leo’d” also made its way in there, a verb meaning “to achieve something after years of trying.” Which leads me to wonder if there’ll be something along the lines of getting “LaLa’d” this year…a version of April Fools’ pranks for awards ceremonies?
9. Texas Dollars
Anyone remember when Texas was its own republic? Probably not, because as much as Texans like to think it is (and Californians, I’m looking at you too), it hasn’t been since 1836. That said, in 2016, the state comptroller’s office announced they were reissuing the Texas “Redback” dollar for the first time since the 1840s. And, for a brief minute, we believed them. If only because it would have been hilarious, as much as anything else. Guess which famous Texan was going to be the face of the $10 bill.
10. Clear Guinness
Remember how Jesus turned water into wine at that wedding in Cana? Well, Guinness apparently figured out how to reverse engineer the operation. Sort of. Everyone loves a Guinness, but boy are they heavy on the stomach. That’s why the no-calorie version seemed so obvious. Last year, the U.S. branch of the company announced in a tweet that the moment had arrived and we could all come together and smuggle alcohol into work in water bottles. Fortunately, this didn’t actually take off, and so neither did the number of DUIs. Moreover, it probably would have tasted terrible.