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A Look at April Fool’s Day and Other Tomfoolery

Updated on March 24, 2017
CatherineGiordano profile image

Catherine Giordano is the author of a book of essays and her poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared in magazines and anthologies.

April Fool's Day

April Fool's Day is a day for playing tricks on others,
April Fool's Day is a day for playing tricks on others, | Source

What is the Origin of April Fool’s Day?

The history of April Fool's Day is uncertain. It most likely began around 1582 in France with the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar, the calendar we use today. New Year's Day was moved from April 1 to January 1 at that time.

Communication traveled slowly in those days and some people were only informed of the change several years later. Also a rebellious few refused to acknowledge the change and continued to celebrate the new year on April 1. These people were labeled "fools."

However, the first known association of April 1st with fools is in Chaucers’ The Canterbury Tales which was published in 1392. Perhaps the calendar change merely reinforced this connection.

We now celebrate April Fool’s Day as an unofficial holiday in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Brazil. It’s a day for playing practical jokes on other people. The person who successfully fools someone gets to yell “April Fool” to inform his victim that he has been tricked.

You are very likely to see hoax news stories on April 1st. Be especially skeptical on that day. Google is well known for April Fool prank stories as the various divisions of the tech giant compete with each other to pull off the biggest hoax.

What Are the Definitions of “Fool”?

The noun “fool” has several definitions:

1. A silly person

He’s talking nonsense like a fool.

2. A person who acts unwisely or imprudently.

He was a fool to sign the contract without reading it.

3. A person lacking in common sense; a simpleton.

You’d have to be a fool not to know that.

4. The court jester in the royal and noble households of Europe during the middle ages was sometimes known as “The Fool”.

The king kept a Fool to entertain the court.

5. A person who is duped.

He made a fool of me when he tricked me.

6. .A person devoted to a particular thing or activity

“I’m a fool for love.” “I’m a dancing fool.”

7. An English dessert made with cooked fruit and whipped cream or custard. (Here are some recipes for Classic English fool.

8. Fool is also a verb meaning to trick or deceive.

What Are Synomns for "Fool"?

There are dozen's of synomns for the word fool.
There are dozen's of synomns for the word fool. | Source

What is the Etymology of the Word "Fool?"

The etymology of “fool” is interesting. It came from the Latin word for bellows, “follis,” which became the French word “fol” which came into English around the 13th century as “fool.” Most likely the blacksmith’s bellows was a metaphor for a wind-bag or empty-headed person.

Where Does the Apostrophe Go?

Does the apostrophe go before or after the "s"? It depends on whether you think the fools are singular or plural. Technically both are correct. However, "April Fool's Day" is the more popular spelling and the spelling used in the Oxford English Dictionary.

It is clear that when the term was first used, it was used to refer to a single individual--It was the day of the "April Fool." In the eighteenth and early half of the nineteenth century, the first of April became known as "All Fools Day." But, in the latter half of the 19th century, it reverted to "April Fool Day" or "April Fool's Day." This second variant became the most common usage in the twentieth century. ("April Fools' Day was also used, but it was much less frequent.)

We can also use the analogy with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Both are singular with an apostrophe before the s. So let’s treat the April Fool in a similar manner.

A Court Jester

A court jester typically wore a motley (harlequin) costume.
A court jester typically wore a motley (harlequin) costume. | Source

What Is the Court Jester?

In Medieval and Tudor times in Europe, the king and other noblemen would employ a court jester to provide entertainment. The jester was usually dressed in brightly colored motley (clothing with a harlequin pattern) and wore a cap adorned with bells and/or baubles.

Jesters were also itinerant comic entertainers who performed for the common folk at fairs and markets. They sang songs, told stories, and performed acrobatics, juggling, and magic tricks.

Jesters, like modern say satirists, often used their act as satire to poke fun of well-known people and events.

Jesters at court were encouraged to be critical; but had to be careful—if their wit went too far, they could be whipped or worse.

The Fool in Tarot

"The Fool" from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck of Tarot cards.
"The Fool" from the Rider-Waite-Smith deck of Tarot cards. | Source

What Is the Meaning of the Fool in Tarot?

In Tarot, The Fool” is depicted as a youth setting out on a journey. This card is the first of the 21 cards of the major arcana. It represents the start of a journey to wisdom—the youth just starting out on his life's journey is depicted as a fool because he knows nothing.

When a tarot reading is done, the card indicates newness. It is a positive card that can mean the beginning of something like a new relationship or a new enterprise. It can also mean a fresh start or the need to make a choice.

The card also indicates optimism, purity, and the high-spirited energy of a child. He has a carefree confidence. He is about to explore the world and his future is full of possibilities.

The Joker in a Deck of Cards

Many decks of cards include two joker cards.
Many decks of cards include two joker cards. | Source

Why Is the Joker In a Deck of Cards?

Some decks of cards include two jokers. The jokers do not have suits (heats, diamonds, clubs and spades) like the other cards. Many card games do not include the jokers. When they are used, they are often played as “wild" cards.

Jokers first began to appear in decks in the 1860’s. At that time euchre was a very popular card game. American euchre players decided that an extra trump card was needed. Originally the card was called “The Best Bower”; it later came to be called “The Little Joker” or “The Jolly Joker”.

Why introduce a joker instead of some other character? Playing cards are derived from tarot cards, so the joker was taken from tarot and added to the deck that already included cards from the major arcana of tarot--the kings, queens, and jacks. The joker is usually drawn to look like another member of the royal court--a court jester.

What Is the Origin of the Word “Tomfoolery"?

The word “tomfoolery” may have originated in the southern part of the United States. It means high-spirited or silly behavior. It may have derived from the term “Uncle Tom” and referred to a slave who acted the fool to stay in his master’s good graces.

However, as is the case with the explanation of the term “April Fool,” the use of the word “tomfoolery' goes back much further. It was used by William Shakespeare in 1606 in his play King Lear in which Tom the Fool plays a central role. Shakespeare named his character after Tom Skelton, a court jester who was commonly known as “Tom the Fool.”

Fool's Gold

Fool's gold is mineral that resembles gold.
Fool's gold is mineral that resembles gold. | Source

What is Fool’s Gold?

The mineral pyrite or iron pyrite is sometimes called fool’s gold. It is pale yellow in color with a metallic luster giving it a resemblance to gold. Despite being called fools gold, pyrite is sometimes found together with small quantities of gold.

The earliest known use of the phrase dates back to 1872, where an article entitled "Fool's Gold and How We May Know it," was printed in the newspaper, Indiana Progress:

“There are several minerals which are sometimes mistaken for gold, but the two which are most apt to give rise to deception in this matter are pyrites and mica, and hence they are sometimes called fool's gold."

The term “fool’s gold” is sometimes used as an idiom that refers to something that appears to be valuable but is actually worthless. For example,

The shares I bought in the new tech company turned out to be fool’s gold.

What are Some Proverbs, Sayings, and Quotes about Fools?

There are lots words of wisdom about fools and foolishness. Many are anonymous. I have included attributions where I could find them.

Fools are a popular topic for pop song-writers. I’ve included these video clips for your listening pleasure.

  • A fool and his money are soon parted.
  • A fool and his money are soon spotted.
  • Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is counted wise. –Proverbs 17:28
  • It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and be proven a fool.
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. –Alexander Pope
  • Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.
  • Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, can’t get fooled again. --George W. Bush
  • Why do fools fall in love?
  • There is no fool like an old fool.
  • You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. –Abraham Lincoln
  • You can fool some of the people some of the time--and that is enough to make a decent living. --W. C. Fields
  • God give them wisdom that have it, and those that are fools, let them use their talents. --Shakespeare Twelfth Night
  • Any fool can make a rule and any fool can mind it. --Henry David Thoreau

What Are Some Songs About Fools?

Fools seem to be a popular topic for songs. Here are three favorites.

Why Do Fools Fall in Love —Frankie Lyman

Only Fools Rush In—Elvis Presley

The Fool on the Hill -- Paul McCartney

More Songs About Fools

Do you want more songs about fools? Check this out 46 Songs About Fools

Just for fun

Do you rush in where angels fear to tread?

See results

© 2015 Catherine Giordano

I Welcome Your Comments about Fools and Foolishness

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That was interesting. I never knew the origin of that day. Thanks to you I'm not ready for it if it comes up in trivia. :)

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Billybuc: Plus you will know what fool's gold is in that trivia contest.

      I barely pressed publish and I have a comment from you. How do you do it. You don't have to answer; just know I appreciate the comments.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Well, not reading this hub would certainly make one foolish! You've packed it with so many interesting trivia facts about so many things we thought we knew! A truly fun read from start to finish.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      tilsontian: Thank you for voting up. I'm so glad you enjoyed the April Fool's Day fun facts and trivia. I glad it was as much fun to read as it was to write.

    • Chriswillman90 profile image

      Krzysztof Willman 2 years ago from Parlin, New Jersey

      I had no idea about some of these things. I honestly didn't even know the origins of April Fool's day probably because I thought it seemed trivial. You certainly made it far more interesting with this hub. Good read.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Chriswillman90: Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you found all the fool trivia interesting. I guess I just have a curious mind. I like to know the why behind everything. April Fool's Day is a fun holiday, and I'm just having fun with it.

    • melissae1963 profile image

      Melissa Reese Etheridge 2 years ago from Tennessee, United States

      This is so interesting. I'm going to share it with my sixth graders.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      melissae1963; I feel so flattered and pleased that you want to share my April Fool research with your sixth grade class. What a wonderful idea. Do come back and let me know how it went.

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      I had no idea where the April 1st fool day came from. One of my granddaughters was born on this date so it is very interesting trivia to know. I will pass it along to her.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Lorelei: I bet your granddaughter gets a lot of kidding about being born on April Fools Day. I'm sure she will enjoy knowing the origin of the term and all the other fool-related info (call it trivia, if you must) I provide.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 2 years ago

      This Hub was very interesting Catherine. I always think things through before do anything. In school I learned - slowly - about being a fool and gradually overcame it. By the time I graduated I had learned and was not one anymore.

      I voted this up, shared and pinned it.

      Kevin

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Kevin, thanks so much for your vote, share and pin. It was fun for me to write about fools. Here I am in my dotage and I'm still a fool. Congrats to you for learning not to be a fool.

    • profile image

      Whitney Rose Wood 2 years ago

      Great article, I would never have guessed that the word "fool" was derived from the Latin word for bellows. I could see why it did though. I enjoyed reading this. Voted up.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Whitney Rose Wood: Thanks, Yes it is pretty amazing "some of the "foolish" facts I dug up. Glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks for voting up.

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 2 years ago from Australia

      An interesting hub, thank you. I remember at school the nuns tell ing us that to play an April Fool's joke was a mortal sin, because Christ was crucified on April 1 (like a lot of what we taught then, I've never been able to confirm this!) Your article was much more informative, voted up

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Anne Harrison: I had never heard that about Jesus. You have provided new trivia for my hub, regardless of whether it is true or not. Thanks for voting up.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      What an entertaining hub, Catherine! I used to hate 1st April because I was quite gullible when young. The English one used to end at midday (not sure about now) so I breathed a sigh of relief at lunch time!

      The French call it 'Poisson d'avril' because they pin a fish to someone's back; those who don't notice are laughed at of course.

      Fascinating research here and some great quotes and examples. Love it! Up++ and shared.

      Ann

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Thanks Ann. The April Fools hub was fun to write. Thanks for adding to my research. I did not know about the April Fool fish in France. Thanks for the votes and sharing.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      This is one of my favorite days. Why ..you might ask? Well, because it is the birth date of one of my sisters...the one that is seven years older than I am...she tells everyone we are twins born seven years apart. :D

      And 2 days later is the birth date of my eldest sister (18 years older).so this is a special time for me and them.

      You did a great job of filling in the details about this special date.

      Angels are on the way to you Voted up++++ shared g+

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      PStraubie48: Thanks for the comment, votes and shares. I'm sure your sisters will enjoy the April tomfoolery. It's so nice to have this as your special day.

      My birthday is near Valentine's Day so that is a constant theme for me.

    • Uzochukwu Mike profile image

      Uzochukw Mike 2 years ago from Oba

      Very well structured hub. Thanks for teaching me on the origin of April fool, and others.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      I never heard or read about the origin of April Fool's Day before.

      "Interest" stuff you have complied in this hub, Catherine.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Uzo: My pleasure. April Fool's Day is a funny kind of holiday without a religious or civic origin. You might say it is a foolish holiday.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
      Author

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      colorfulone: Thanks for commenting. I'm pleased I could tell you the origin of the day along with a lot of trivia about fools. It's nice in a way to have a day to celebrate fools.

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      With a sense of humor we can celebrate just about anything, even fools.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 6 weeks ago from USA

      Thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. I really love the George Bush quote. Who woulda thought he'd be missed? This has brought back fond memories of all of the fun April Fools Day pranks I've witnessed.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 5 weeks ago from Orlando Florida

      Of course, no essay about fools would be complete without a quote from George Bush. I can't say the same about Trump. He is not a fool, he's just plain crazy. I heard this joke: Bush is happy Trump got elected because now he is only the second worst president in American history. But I digress. I enjoyed your comment. The best part of April Fool's Day pranks is that you feel so smart when you DON'T fall for them. I can't wait to see what we get this year.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Great hub on the History of what used to be one of my FAVORITE days for "pay-back" if you know what I mean!! However, 21 yrs ago, one of my Grandsons was born on April 1st! Now of course we're busy celebrating with a party and just having "good" fun...No practical jokes allowed! LOL Which of course does not include some of my crazy friends who insist upon "tricking me" all they want!

      It can be fun if people don't go overboard!! Thanks for another great read! Peace, Paula

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 5 weeks ago from Orlando Florida

      Paula, I am sure it is more fun to celebrate your grandson's birthday than to play tricks on people. I hope your friends only play fun tricks on you, not mean ones. Thanks so much for your comment.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 weeks ago from USA

      I'm back to share on social media. Have you noticed the Flipboard icon is missing? Don't know why!

    • CatherineGiordano profile image
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      Catherine Giordano 4 weeks ago from Orlando Florida

      FlourishAnyway: Thanks for the shares. There is a discussion in the Forum about Flipboard. No one seems to know why. Flipboard, twitter, and G+ have to be done manually using the URL.

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