Word for Wednesday: Fool

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Yesterday was the 1st April. Since the medieval times the first day of April has been host to all manner of jokes, pranks and hoaxes.

April Fools’ or All Fools’ Day is an informal holiday celebrated annually. For one day, one is allowed and frankly, expected to play pranks or jokes on your friends, family or workmates – and so you can expect the same in return!

Anyone playing April fool’s pranks after midday is considered the ‘April Fool’ and the joke is on them, so to speak. Although in our experience, the joking has carried on long into the day.

April fools day is recognized in most European cultures, and is therefore celebrated in a colourful array of traditions. One of our favourites has to be the French tradition known as ‘Poisson d’avril’ or ‘April fish’. The objective of ‘Poisson d’avril’ is to affix a paper fish to your chosen victim’s back without getting caught.

Amusingly, the media and press annually publish lighthearted hoax stories on April Fools’ Day. The Evening Standard compiled a roundup of this years best hoax news items here.

The word ‘fool' itself comes from the Latin follismeaning ‘windbag’, making its way into Old French ‘asfolwith’ a very similar meaning to the modern fool. Google’s own etymology dictionary links the term ‘follisto’ ‘empty headedness’ – a head like a windbag, interestingly a similar idea still remains in the pejorative ‘airhead’.

Fool is a dynamic word, with several different applications: a noun in the general sense but also in reference to the court-jester type fool or the type of English dessert. One can also ‘fool’ someone, or ‘fool’ around.

We hope you all survived April Fools’ Day relatively unscathed this year, either that or you had a fruitful day of pranking!

Hugh MacDermott

02 Apr 2014
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