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April Fools Day

by Claire Powell and Dave Collett

What is April Fools Day and what are its origins? It is commonly believed that in medieval France, New Year was celebrated on 1 April. Then in 1562, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world, changing New Year to 1 January. With no modern communications, news travelled slowly and new ideas were often questioned. Many people did not hear of the change, others chose to ignore it, while some merely forgot. These people were called fools. Invitations to non-existent ‘New Year’ parties were sent and other practical jokes were played. This jesting evolved over time into a tradition of playing pranks on 1 April. The custom eventually spread to England and Scotland, and it was later transported across the Atlantic to the American colonies of the English and the French. April Fools Day has now developed into an international festival of fun, with different nationalities celebrating the day in special ways.

In France and Italy, if someone plays a trick on you, you are the ‘fish of April’. By the month of April fish have only just hatched and are therefore easy to catch. Children stick paper fish to their friends’ backs and chocolate fish are found in the shops.

In Scotland, April Fools Day lasts for two days! The second day is called ‘Taily Day’ and tricks on this day involve the bottom (or the ‘tail’ in informal speech). Often a sign saying ‘kick me’ is stuck onto someone’s back without them knowing.

In Spain and Mexico, similar celebrations take place on 28 December. The day is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod in his search for the baby Jesus. It eventually changed to a lighter commemoration of innocence involving pranks and trickery.

Today, Americans and the British play small tricks on friends and strangers alike on 1 April. A common trick is to point to a friend's shoe and say ‘Your shoelace is untied.’ When they look down, they are laughed at. Schoolchildren might tell a friend that school has been cancelled. A bag of flour might be balanced on the top of a door so that when the ‘victim’ opens the door, the flour empties over their head. Sometimes the media gets involved. Once, a British short film was shown on April Fools Day about spaghetti farmers and how they harvest their crop from spaghetti trees!

Most April Fool jokes are in good fun and not meant to harm anyone. The best trick is the one where everyone laughs, especially the person upon whom the joke has been played.

 

April Fool’s Day, 1989

UFO Lands Near London

Two British policemen were sent to investigate a glowing flying saucer on 31 March, the day before April Fool’s Day. When the policemen arrived at a field in Surrey, they saw a small figure wearing a silver space suit walking out of a spacecraft. Immediately the police ran off in the opposite direction. Reports revealed that the alien was in fact a midget, and the flying saucer was a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records.

Branson had planned to land the balloon in London’s Hyde Park on 1 April. However, a wind change had brought him down in a Surrey field. The police were bombarded with phone calls from terrified motorists as the balloon drifted over the motorway. One lady was so shocked by the incident that she didn’t realise that she was standing naked in front of her window as she was describing the UFO to a radio station

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Hi everyone,

These material are useful for listening and getting it down. There are 2 things could you please help me check a gain?
1. in a special way, instead of in a special wayS as a friend mentioned above?
2. The speaker read "Sometime the media getS involved" but the message is "Sometime the media get involved". A bit confused, am I wrong while hearing her pronunciation?

Thanks a lot

Hi ielts_Tram,

The correct form is 'in a special way'. You could say 'in special ways' if you are thinking about more than one way. The form 'in a special ways' is incorrect. Please note that we do not correct our users' comments on the site so they may contain some errors.

You are quite right with your second point. The speaker does say 'gets' and I have corrected the audioscript to show this. Both 'get' and 'gets' are grammatically possible as 'media' can be treated as either singular or plural in normal use, but here the speaker says 'gets'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear sir, may i ask a question?
In the transcript there is a sentence " often a sign "kick me" is stuck onto someone's back without them knowing."
I wonder if we could say ".....without their knowing" And if yes, what is the difference between "without them knowing" and "without their knowing". Which one is used more popularly?
Thanks so much.

Hello le hoang dong,

Yes, you can use either form here – in other words, both 'them' and 'their' are correct and there is no difference in meaning between them. Some writers and editors prefer one form and others prefer the other. I was taught that the object pronoun forms ('them') are more informal than the possessive determiners ('their'), but I've heard and seen both in use in so many different contexts that I'd say both are generally fine.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

It was interesting for me,so I enjoyed it and got information as well.

I am wondering if using 'them' to refer to 'someone' is correct in the article:

Often a sign saying ‘kick me’ is stuck onto someone’s back without them knowing.

How about

Often a sign saying ‘kick me’ is stuck onto someone’s back without him/her knowing.

Or both ways are accepted?

Hello j1mmy,

Yes, it is correct to use 'them' here. We use 'them' (or 'they', 'their' or 'theirs') when we do no know the gender of the person. You can say 'he/or' or 'he or she', but this is quite clumsy in many contexts, especially if repeated several times, so 'they' is more common.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everybody, this is first time I use LearnEnglish and I find it very interesting and funny way to improve my English .... eight questions are very important to know if you have understood the text ...
Very funny was the idea for a movie on spaghetti tree ....!

April fool makes a man fool but your story dosen't makes a man fool.....

I recalled it was a funny day during my school time, everyone played pranks on each others and we wouldn't get angry as we just took it a small jesting and made it fun among us. When I grow up, I do not see people make jokes or jesting in the office on this day, people turn to be more serious when they grow up and slowly i do not longer feel the fun on April fool day.

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