Today is a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The Wikipedia says that in Italy, France and Belgium, children and adults tack paper fishes on each other’s backs as a trick and shout ‘April fish!’ in their local language. Such fish feature prominently on French late 19th to early 20th century April Fools’ Day postcards.
In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as ‘Fooles Holy Day’, the first British reference. On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to ‘see the lions washed’.
While these pranks, which are recorded on the Internet, seem innocent enough, history is littered with instances where jokes on April 1 and other such days have backfired, with unintended, tragic consequences.
A quick check will show that around the world there have been pranks about bomb blasts, assassination of political leaders, about how one country lifted sanctions against another, about prisoners being freed en masse and so on. Some of these are not funny, just heinous, and put people in potentially dangerous situations.
It is vital then that today, while playing a prank or planning an elaborate hoax on somebody, one should step back a little and think about possible repercussions. We live in an age where jokes and rumours are amplified a thousandfold simply because of the medium at our fingertips, the Internet. Causing unnecessary alarm, communal tension and being the inadvertent starter of brawls is not funny, simply wicked. Have fun today but keep the jokes safe.