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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren


If Every Fool Wore a Crown.
Column for the weeks of April 1-15, 2005

A Welsh Proverb states, “If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings.” No time is that more evident than on April 1 st, the day we call April Fool’s Day. The fact we put it on our calendars and semi celebrate it proves the proverb. We aren’t even sure where it came from but that doesn’t stop us. Hey, everybody likes a good joke.

The origin of the day is hazy at best. All through ancient history, lots of festivals such as the Roman Saturnalia, the Indian Holi, the Festus Fatuorum (Feast of Fools) plus a Celtic festival to honor Lud, the god of humor, involved games, tricks, and jokes. The most popular theory about April Fool’s Day links back to France and the Gregorian Calendar.

The new year used to be an 8 day celebration culminating on April 1 st. The papacy adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1582 which moved New Year’s Day to January 1st. News traveled slowly in those days, so some continued to celebrate the new year on April 1 st. Still others refused to accept this new calendar and were considered “fools” by everyone else. They were made the brunt of jokes like having paper fish stuck to their backs without their knowledge called Poisson d’Avril (April Fish) and sent on “fool’s” errands.

Not to be outdone by France, these prank playing traditions spread to England to Scotland and then into the Americas. Scotland liked it so much they decided to celebrate it for two days. The second day is called “Taily Day” and is devoted strictly to pranks for the posterior of the body. Thus we can trace the “kick-me” sign back to this origin. (I’m not making this up even though it’s April Fool’s Day!)

In modern times we celebrate by using fake vomit, fake dog dog-poo, whoopee cushions, exploding pens, and since we love to carry on traditions…putting “kick-me” signs on unsuspecting bystanders. We are a foolish bunch, aren’t we? In fact statistics show that Americans are 12% more foolish this year than last. This is according to public relations consultant, Jeff Barge, and the Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey. Can you believe we have to spend money on such a survey to find out we’re foolish? Just seeing the stats of how many actually respond to those e-mails from Nigeria hoping to get a fortune should show us that. However, it is difficult to tell truth from fiction these days. Here are some classic April Fool’s jokes on the public.

In 1980 the BBC announced that Big Ben would become digital to keep up with the times. It received a huge protest from listeners.

In 1994 an alcoholic beverage company reported it had invented a new kind of candy…the chewy Vodka Bar. They were designed to complete with Snickers and Mars Bars. They came in three flavors: coconut, lemon, and salted cucumber. They were also working on the vodka instant tea bag.

In 1996, Taco Bell announced that it bought the Liberty Bell and it would be renamed the Taco Liberty Bell. Outraged citizens called Philadelphia in protest. Taco Bell admitted it was a joke a few hours later. Mike McCurry, White House press secretary, was asked about the incident and he said the Lincoln Memorial had been sold also, but to a different company. It would now be called the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

In 1998 Burger King placed a full page ad in USA today introducing the “Left-Handed Whopper.” It would have the same ingredients as a regular Whopper but condiments would be rotated a bit for the benefit of the left handed eater. It was a hoax but many showed up at local Burger Kings for the new Whopper and others requested the “Right-Handed” version.

In 2000, a newspaper ran an article stating Florida researchers had come up with a Viagra type pill for sexually frustrated pets. It sounds believable to me. After all, people pay good money to take their dog to a psychiatrist.

Hey, we’ve all fallen for jokes now and then. Just look at our politicians. Like Will Rogers said, “The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.”

I guess the real lesson of April Fool’s Day is something we need to practice everyday. Don’t believe anything you hear or read and only half of what you see….and don’t get close enough to anyone that can put a “kick-me” sign on your back.

And with that I will say, “Happy April!” By the way, your shoe is untied. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

 

Be sure to visit this page often to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bdahlgren@wcgsouthbay.org.

 

 

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