Tuesday, April 1, 2008


You don't hear about it much anymore, but putting salt in the sugar bowl used to be one of the prime April Fool's Day pranks. I always wanted to do it myself as a kid, but neither of my parents took sugar in their coffee, or had cereal in the morning, so I was forced to think of other measures to mark the occasion. It was all good training, though. In fact I went on to become a real good practical joker - although I've since reformed. Getting in trouble with the FBI will do that to a person (smiley face). These days, April Fool's tricks are still important, and like many other cultural touchstones, have become more elaborate over time. And more 'institutional" too; well beyond the simple kitchen table switcheroo I imagined as a youngster. If you think I exaggerate, check out these from the Wikipedia site.

Well-known pranks

  • Alabama Changes the Value of Pi: The April 1998 newsletter of New Mexicans for Science and Reason contained an article written by physicist Mark Boslough claiming that the Alabama Legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi to the "Biblical value" of 3.0. This claim originally appeared as a news story in the 1961 science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.[2]
  • Spaghetti trees: The BBC television programme Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. They had claimed that the despised pest the spaghetti weevil had been eradicated. A large number of people contacted the BBC wanting to know how to cultivate their own spaghetti trees. It was in fact filmed in St Albans.[3]
  • Left Handed Whoppers: In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side.[4] Not only did customers order the new burgers, but some specifically requested the "old", right-handed burger.[5]
  • Taco Liberty Bell: In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell." When asked about the sale, White House press secretary Mike McCurry replied tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.[6]
  • San Serriffe: The Guardian printed a supplement in 1977 praising this fictional resort, its two main islands (Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse), its capital (Bodoni), and its leader (General Pica). Intrigued readers were later disappointed to learn that San Serriffe (sans serif) did not exist except as references to typeface terminology. (This comes from a Jorge Luis Borges story.)[7]
  • Metric time: Repeated several times in various countries, this hoax involves claiming that the time system will be changed to one in which units of time are based on powers of 10.[8]
  • Smell-o-vision: In 1965, the BBC purported to conduct a trial of a new technology allowing the transmission of odor over the airwaves to all viewers. Many viewers reportedly contacted the BBC to report the trial's success. This hoax was also conducted by the Seven Network in Australia in 2005.[9] In 2007, the BBC website repeated an online version of the hoax.[10]
  • Tower of Pisa: The Dutch television news reported once in the 1950s that the Tower of Pisa had fallen over. Many shocked people contacted the station.[11]
  • Write Only Memory: Signetics advertised Write Only Memory IC databooks in 1972 through the late 1970s.[12]
  • The Canadian news site bourque.org announced in 2002 that Finance Minister Paul Martin had resigned "in order to breed prize Charolais cattle and handsome Fawn Runner ducks."[13]
For more hilarious stories of jokes from radio, television, and newspapers etc, click on the Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_fool%27s_day

Meanwhile, what music should we have to go with the occasion? How about this pair, both of which I used to have on 78 rpms, BTW.

"April Love" by the man in the white bucks, Pat Boone.

"Poor Little Fool" A terrific photo montage (insert sound of puppy panting here) of Ricky. He's what we used to call "a real doll" back then.

1 comment:

coffee maker said...

using April Fool's day for PR stunts are risky, but evidently they can pay off big for some companies