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  • Lawrence Bailey

When April Fool’s Day almost gets pasta joke



Yep, it’s that time of year where it’s advisable to remember the date before believing anything you see, read or hear.


The tradition of staging an April Fool’s Day hoax has been with us for very long time but it’s lately become the province of the media and major brands.


According to those who document such things, the most famous remains the BBC Panorama item in the 1960s which reported how farmers in southern Switzerland were experiencing a bumper spaghetti harvest.


Families were shown picking pasta strands from a "spaghetti tree" and hundreds phoned in the following day to ask for cultivation tips.


There were told to "place a strand of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best".


Of course, we’ve all since become more sophisticated, haven’t we?


Hmm, well, there was that time when respected astronomer Patrick Moore appeared on an evening radio show to tell folks about the imminent ‘Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect’.


At 9.47am the next morning, he said, (you can guess the date involved) the alignment of the two planets would weaken the Earth’s gravitational field and if you jumped in the air at exactly the right time then you’d take fractionally longer to come down.


You’d be surprised how many people still “fall” for that one.


Guardian readers were less taken in by a purported travel piece about the little-known tourist destination of San Serriffe.


There was understandable scepticism over how the island grouping was shaped like a semi colon. But it was the names of the two land masses, “Upper Caisse” and “Lower Caisse” which finally confirmed the newspaper could no longer be regarded as a font of all knowledge. (See what I did there?)


The Daily Mail had a bit more luck in reporting that a UK manufacturer was mounting a recall for 10,000 "rogue bras". The story claimed the support wire produced static electricity which could interfere with local television and radio broadcasts.


Although widely dismissed as a hoax, it’s reported that a senior manager at British Telecom put out a memo demanding female laboratory staff disclose what type of bra they were wearing.


Some gags are memorable for the wrong reasons. A couple of decades ago, the South Wales Evening Post carried the news that Swansea Council would shortly replace all street names with postcodes. The efficiency measure was to be introduced within six months, according to local authority spokesperson Mason Preedup (made up person).


The level of outrage among residents had to be seen to believed and it’s a measure of accomplishment on the part of the hoaxers that the episode is still portrayed today as a real idea that was abandoned due to popular protest.


My personal favourite spoof was the “Tesco Whistling Carrot”. In 2002, the supermarket giant revealed the successful development of a genetically modified vegetable specially engineered to grow with tapered airholes in their side.


When cooked, the carrots would emit a continuous high-pitched whistle. Scientists claimed the potential result would be future generations with slightly impaired hearing but much improved eyesight.


However, the food-related April Fool recognised as having the biggest commercial spin-off was in 1998 when a well-known fast-food chain announced they had started selling left-handed burgers – and people trooped in to order one specially.


Sales actually tripled in some places, which just goes to show that as with spaghetti trees, you can sometimes take things pasta joke.


Be careful out there.

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