Ah, the French. They've given us great literature, fine wine … and April Fools' Day.
Many anthropologists say April Fools' Day is a French tradition dating back to the 16th century, putting the day practical jokers run amok alongside berets, bidets and croissants as a French cultural contribution.
April Fools' history remains a bit murky. Ancient Romans, among others, may have played a hand in institutionalizing a holiday when open season is declared on the gullible. But there's no denying France's role in the highly questionable practice of honoring put-ons and lame jokes.
The implications of this reckless behavior is clear: If anyone's ever hung a "Kick Me" sign on your posterior or spiked your sugar bowl with salt, Paris is ultimately responsible — and they should pay.
If Congress deems it worthy to rechristen "French"-named food in their cafeteria, taking on the French for lame April Fools' Day jokes is even more reasonable. It's time for lawmakers to act, quickly and decisively, just as they did in taking the French out of their toast and fries.
Do we need to strip April Fools' Day from our calendars? That's extreme. I suggest a more modest proposal: Let's just give the French proper billing and send a message to gay Paree.
From now on, let April 1 be known as "Franco-Fools' Day."
History’s Fishy Gift
The French connection to April Fools' Day is no joke. It all started in 1564, when King Charles IX of France adopted the Gregorian calendar, thereby switching the New Year's Day to Jan. 1.
Up until then, Europe used the Julian calendar and held New Year's celebrations around the spring equinox, on dates ranging from March 21 to April 1.
But news of King Charles' edict spread rather slowly — especially in small towns. And, as always, the French held tight to their old traditions and defiantly celebrated New Year's on the old date.
The result: calendar chaos. Suddenly, that old excuse, "I'll pay you next year," took on even less significance.
Parisians grew frustrated and mocked these backward bumpkins as Poisson d'Avril, or "April Fish". This led to expressions of sarcasm, then gag gifts, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It's still a favorite prank among French kids is to tape a paper fish to the backside of an unsuspecting rube. Fooliganism Spreads to America
England waited until the 18th century to adopt the "Catholic" calendar, and when it did, our Anglo brothers also embraced April Fools' Day. Thus, French fooliganism spread to the American colonies, Scotland and much of the world, faster than the speed of a rubber chicken.
A cultural note: If you're the butt of a British practical joke, you're a "noodle." In Scotland, you're a "gowk," or cuckoo bird.
Now, in Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere, there's a designated day for foolish pleasures. South Korea was forced to step up surveillance operations after its national fire service received some 3,061 hoax calls on April Fools' Day two years ago, according to Agence France-Press.
Even after issuing stern warnings, South Korean officials reported more than 1,500 hoax calls the next April 1, several times the number that's registered on any other day.
April Fools' Day lore is rife worldwide with infamous stunts, some that backfire badly. To name a few: