Thursday, March 31, 2016


            Before we get too far into this thing I will remind the regular readers of this column, and inform the new ones, of my feelings towards practical joking. You see, I’m not a big fan of them as I find many practical jokes are very seldom practical and I feel that laughing at someone else’s embarrassment, confusion or discomfort is cheap humour. Just sayin’. Besides, I really hate being laughed at.
Now, having said that, I will qualify my statement by emphasizing that I don’t care for “cruel” jokes that might cause personal harm or property damage. You know, putting a live chicken in someone’s front porch while they are at work for the day is one thing…putting an entire 30-chicken brood in there is another thing entirely. One’s a joke the other’s a disaster!
I will admit, though, that there are some cerebral jokesters out there who put some real thought into their jokes. I am reminded of the older gent from Wawota who, after a rain shower, would rise early to adjust his neighbours rain gauges by taking some rain water out of this one and adding it to that one so he could then listen to them argue and argue later on at the coffee shop over how much rain had fallen the night before. Tee-hee-hee.
            Some practical jokes not only take a lot of thought but time and effort as well. Back in the 1920’s American painter, Waldo Peirce, was living in Paris when he made a gift of a large turtle to the female concierge of his building. The woman doted on the turtle and lavished care on it, which Peirce knew she would. A few days later he substituted a somewhat larger turtle for the original one and he continued for some time with larger and larger turtles. The woman was beside herself with happiness as she displayed her miraculous turtle to the entire neighbourhood. Then Peirce reversed the process sneaking into the woman’s apartment with smaller and smaller turtles…much to her dismay…and to his amusement!
I don’t have any quantifiable evidence to support it but I’m pretty sure practical joking has been around about as long as humans have been. Who doesn’t like to jump out from behind a rock or out of the cave to scare the be-jeepers out of some unsuspecting victim?
Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales, (1392), contains the first recorded association between April 1st and foolishness. The custom of setting aside a day for prank making is recognized around the world. The Ancient Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India and the Medieval Feast of Fools are precursors to today’s April Fools’ Day. Flemish poet, Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on April 1st, 1539. On April 1st, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed.”
This edition of The Citizen is scheduled to come out on Friday April 1st, April Fools’ Day. Have fun, play a joke, be a fool, but please don’t be nasty and remember that any person playing a joke after midday is the “April Fool” themselves.

“The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fools’ Day;
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.”

-Poor Robin’s Almanac 1790.

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