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Pranks on tap for April Fools' Day

April 01, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner was named an honorary member of the Backstreet Boys Sunday afternoon before the hit pop group tied up traffic for hours with a free concert at the Square.

As Breichner took to the stage and sang backup to "Quit Playing Games With My Heart," screaming teenage girls were heard proclaiming, "This mayor guy, is, like, so cool and everything."

Sources say Breichner will adopt a role as "the sensitive one."

And if you believe all this, the Scottish would have no problem calling you an "April Gowk," which means "cuckoo." The British would call you a "noodle," and the Portugese would throw flour at you.

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Here in the United States, Americans would simply shout "April Fool!"

The origin of April Fools' Day began in France in 1562 after Pope Gregory created a new Christian calendar that shifted the new year from April 1 to Jan. 1, according to the Embassy of the United States' Web site.

The French who didn't know about the change or who were opposed to it continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1, and were called "April fools," the site states. April 1 then became known as the day to play practical jokes and pranks on the gullible.

In France today, the first of April is called Poisson d'Avril, which means April Fish. Children tape paper fish to the backs of those who have successfully pranked, the site states.

Many of April Fools' Day tricks are similar throughout the world, such as setting a family member's or friend's alarm clock to the wrong time so that person shows up late for an appointment, adding food coloring to milk or attaching a "kick me" sign to a person's back.

Sam Wright of Downsville said the last time he played a prank on someone was in grade school.

"We'd just color in with pencil the outside of a quarter and have a person roll it down their head so they'd have a black line down their face," Wright said.

April Fools' on the Net lists as the top prank of all time a fake 1994 Associated Press story circulated by e-mail that stated Microsoft Corp. acquired the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for shares of Microsoft stock.

According to the Museum of Hoaxes, a British newspaper in 2000 ran a story stating that a health club created a new line of socks that helped people lose weight. The socks were designed to suck the body fat out of a person as they were sweating.

Web Holidays Inc. suggests pranks, including removing the icing from an Oreo cookie and replacing it with toothpaste, freezing water in a cereal bowl, pouring cereal on top of it and serving it to children or covering a bath towel with chalk powder and leaving it in the bathroom for someone to use after a shower.

But whether you're the prankster or on the receiving end of a joke, Mark Twain has described April 1 as: "... the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year."

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