Volume 12, Issue 14 ~ April 1-7, 2004
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Spaghetti does grow on trees! Grow your own by placing a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce.
Not Just for Kids

Don’t Be An April Fool
By Martha Blume

Will you be an April fool this year? Or will you be the trickster, plotting, scheming and wreaking havoc on friends and family? If so, you’ll join a long tradition of tricksters.

Why April — Not January — Fool?
The tradition may have its roots in a calendar change. Until 500 years ago, western Europe’s Julian calendar celebrated New Year’s Day on April 1. Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new calendar to the Christian world in the mid-1500s. His Gregorian calendar, which we use today, moved New Year’s Day to January 1.

Tradition has it that, in an age well before cell phones and pagers, word of the calendar change was slow in getting around. Those who continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1 were called April Fools and became the butt of jokes. Tricks have been played on gullible humans over the years.

Famous April Fool Jokes

  • In 1957, a British Broadcasting Company TV news show reported that, due to a mild winter and the extermination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Scenes showed Swiss farmers harvesting pasta from trees. When viewers called in to ask how they could produce their own pasta, they were told to place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.

  • Burger King introduced the Left-Handed Whopper in 1998 for its southpaw patrons. The burger’s condiments were rotated 180 degrees. Thousands of customers showed up requesting the sandwich. Others protested because there was no right-handed version. When the hoax was called, Jim Watkins, senior vice president in marketing for Burger King commented: “Everyone knows it takes two hands to handle a whopper, not one.”

  • In 1974, residents of Sitka, Alaska, awoke to find their long-dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe, in the early stages of erupting. Billows of black smoke poured out of its cone. A local practical joker, Porky Bickar, was found to blame. He had flown hundreds of old tires to the volcano’s crater and set them afire to produce the black smoke. Six years later, Bickar got the last laugh when Mount Edgecumbe did in fact erupt.

  • In 1996, Taco Bell announced in an ad in the New York Times that it had purchased the Liberty Bell from the federal government in order to help erase national debt, renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell. Outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia to vent their anger.

Find these and other April fools jokes at www.museumofhoaxes.com/aprilfool.

Fool Friends & Family
Here are some smaller scale tricks to try on your own unsuspecting family:

Your Sister: Take every stitch of clothing in her closet and drawers and turn them inside out, neatly placing everything back where you found it. When she opens her closet, she won’t know what hit her.

Your Dad: Hide his toothbrush, his razor or anything else that will confound and confuse him when he tries to get ready in the morning.

Your Mom: After she goes to bed on March 31, change all the clocks an hour ahead (except her own alarm clock; you don’t want to get in too much trouble). When she wakes up, she’ll think she’s running an hour late when she’s really right on time. Suggestion: Don’t wait too long to say April Fools on this one. You know how moms can get in a tizzy.

Your Brother: Empty the Cocoa Puffs (or whatever his favorite cereal is) out of the box and replace it with your mom’s Grape Nuts.

So, will you be a trickster or a fool? Whatever you do, try to avoid these two pitfalls:

  1. Don’t play any tricks after noon on April 1. Superstition has it that those who try to trick their friends after the clock strikes noon on April 1 will bring bad luck down on themselves.

  2. Don’t be a spoil sport. Those who fail to respond with good humor to tricks played on them will attract bad luck. That’s good advice for any time of year. So take your tricks good-naturedly and you are sure to prosper.

Word Attraction
The word fool is derived from the Latin word follis, which means bellows, a pleated chamber for pumping air into a pipe organ or an accordion to make a sound. Bellows were also used to increase the draft to a fire. A synonym for bellows is windbag, which came to mean a person puffed up with nothing but hot air. Hence, a fool.

Kids Calendar

Friday, April 2
Bowling for Jellybeans
Kids ages 2-5 bowl to win the ultimate prize … a jar of jellybeans. 10:30-11:30am @ Southern Community Center, Appeal Ln. (off Rt. 765), Lusby. $2; rsvp: 410-586-1101.

Free Throw Contest
Ages 4-7 test basketball skills in a free-throw contest. As in March Madness, trophies awarded to winners. 10am @ Southern Community Center, Appeal Ln., Lusby.. free; rsvp: 410-326-0673.

Eco Trek Overnight Adventure
Travel from Maryland’s ponds to South American rain forests and see sharks, dolphins and exotic fish at this aquarium slumber party. Snacks, drinks and breakfast served. Adult must accompany children. 7pm-9am @ National Baltimore Aquarium, 501 E. Pratt St., Baltimore. $54 w/age and membership discounts; rsvp: 410-576-3800.

Saturday, April 3
Young Salts
Learn about the life and times of sailing ships through the songs of sailors with Tom Lewis. 10am @ Calvert Marine Museum, Solomons. $10 w/member discounts; rsvp: 410-326-2042 • www.calvertmarinemuseum.com.

Song Bird Nesting Box
Bring the family and build a wildlife refuge in your backyard or balcony with a songbird-nesting box. 10am-noon @ Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract, Rt. 198 between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Rt. 32, Laurel. $10; rsvp: 301-497-5887 • patuxent.fws.gov.

© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated April 1, 2004 @ 12:53am.