Pranksters throughout history

By: Conner Williams

Ah, April Fools’ Day. There’s nothing like a national, erm, holiday that encourages humorous, and sometimes downright cruel, pranks on other people. After all, who doesn’t like causing their friend, roommate, or significant other to nearly have a heart attack by scaring them half to death with a prank?

Some might say that pranks are immature (looking at you, stick-in-the-mud baby boomers), but the truth is that April Fools’ Day dates back hundreds of years. Face it, fun-haters, people have been pranking each other forever.

According to the History Channel, April Fools’ Day dates back to April 1, 1700 when “English pranksters began popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools’ Day by playing practical jokes on each other.”

However, even though the celebration of the day (which is also sometimes referred to as All Fool’s Day) has been around for centuries, historians are unsure as to its origins. Some say that the day’s traditions originated with the French back in 1582 when the Julian calendar was switched to the Gregorian calendar. People that were slow to get the news that the new year had moved to January 1 were ridiculed by having paper fish put on their backs, referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish) that were “said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person.”

Others speculate that the traditions originate from ancient festivals such as the Roman Hilaria in which people dressed up in disguises at the end of March. Additional origin theories say that the day is tied to the vernal equinox, when “Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.”

The day became popularized and celebrated in a widespread manner throughout Britain in the 18th century. According to the History Channel, the tradition became a two-day event in Scotland that started with the “gowk hunt” (a word for a cuckoo bird, which is a symbol for a fool) where people were sent on phony errands. It was then followed by Tallie Day, where people would play pranks that “played on people’s derrières,” such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.

Many individuals and organizations have devoted much time and energy to playing pranks, even on the consumers that keep them alive. For example, in 1985, Sports Illustrated ran an article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch that could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour and fooled many of its readers.

The goal of this issue is to have a little bit of fun with some playful stories that I hope will entertain you. The objective isn’t to offend anyone, it is simply to poke fun at some local and more widespread issues that we as a staff find amusing. Play some pranks on each other and (try) to be safe, and remember that life is so much better when you’re laughing.

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