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Foot Notes

March 31, 2000|JAMES E. FOWLER

Saturday is April Fools' Day. Have fun, but remember: Sometimes you are the joker, and other times you are the jokee. So, keep smiling.

* Practical jokes are universal. Maybe it has something to do with the vernal equinox and the dawn of spring, but the custom of playing practical jokes at this time of the year goes back to ancient times. Both ancient Rome's Hilaria festivities on March 25 and India's Huli celebrations on March 31 involved elements of joke-playing.

* Our modern April Fools' Day dates to the 16th century. Before that, most of Europe used the Julian calendar, which celebrated the New Year on April 1. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a new and improved calendar that moved the start of the new year to Jan. 1. Some, however, continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1 because of ignorance, stubbornness or stupidity. They were called April Fools.

* In France, April 1 is called "Poisson d' Avril" (April Fish). French children trick their victim by pinning a paper fish to his back. The symbolism of the fish is most likely rooted in astrology--the sun has just left the Zodiac sign of Pisces (the fishes). In England, tricks can only be played in the morning and the victim is called a "noodle." In Scotland, the victim is called an "April gowk" (gowk is another name for the cuckoo bird).

* A Web site, http://www.thefreesite.com/aprilfools.htm, offers a wide selection of free practical joke computer programs and services to torment your friends and others come Saturday. The Web site claims it's all in good fun and the joke programs are harmless to computers if not the joke victim's psyche. The stuff ranges from a fake, but realistic-looking, pop-up message that informs the victim of the detection of a deadly computer virus to a fake program, giving the appearance that the victim's hard drive is being reformatted beyond his control. Ha ha. Lots o' laughs.

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