||French April Fool's Day Hoaxes
A long poem published in 1508 by a French choirmaster, Eloy d'Amerval, has caught the eye of historians of April Fool's Day because the text includes the phrase "poisson d'Avril," which is the French term for an "April Fool." Does this indicate that the custom of April Fool's Day was already established in France at the beginning of the 1500s?
Probably not. Or, at least, we can't conclude that from d'Amerval's poem, because the manner in which he used the phrase "poisson d'Avril" doesn't indicate that he associated the term with folly or April 1. Instead, for him it seemed to be a slang term for a pimp or matchmaker. Etymologists suggest that this was, in fact, the original meaning of the term, and that it only evolved to mean an "April Fool" in the 17th century.
French Calendar Reform.
A popular legend holds that April Fool's Day began in 1564 when the 14-year-old King Charles IX of France passed the Edict of Roussillon, decreeing that henceforth the year would begin on January 1, instead of April 1. Supposedly some people failed to hear about the change and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1, causing people to make fun of them and play pranks on them. In this way, they became the first April fools. The existence of references to April Fool's Day before 1564 suggests that this cannot have been the origin of the celebration. But also, the story is incorrect in that April 1 was not considered the start of the year in any part of France before 1564. The year began on different days in different parts of the country (March 25, March 1, Easter, or January 1). One of the reasons for the reform was to impose a single calendrical system throughout the entire country.
The Geneva Tribune reported that on April 1 a French aviator flying over a German camp dropped what appeared to be a huge bomb. The German soldiers immediately scattered in all directions, but no explosion followed. After some time, the soldiers crept back and gingerly approached the bomb. They discovered that it was actually a large football with a note tied to it that read, "April Fool!" [The Atlanta Constitution, Aug 2, 1915.]
Europeans To Drive On Left Side.
French state-run radio announced that European motorists would soon be required to drive on the left side of the road, in order to help British drivers when they joined the Common Market. Almost immediately the radio station began receiving hundreds of phone calls from enraged French motorists. As a result, the station quickly confessed that the story was a hoax.
No Speed Limit for Germans.
L'Humanite, the French Communist Party newspaper, reported that because Germans had no speed limit on their own motorways, the European Commission had therefore decided to allow German drivers to drive as fast as they wanted throughout other EC countries.
European Committee Bans Single-Shelled Eggs.
The European Committee issued a communique in which it declared that it was banning single-shelled eggs, in order to prevent cracked eggs being found in food stores. The ban was a play on the French word "coque" which means both egg shell and ship's hull.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.