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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First Of April --Sneeze Alert

When did April Fools Day begin? Some say it precedes the Roman Empire, but I am a strict historian and declare the year still under discussion. The month, however, I have, through exhaustive research, pinned down to April. Earliest record connecting 1st April and foolishness is in Chaucer's, The Canterbury Tales, not the volume that appeared in 1392 , but the earlier "scratch and sniff" edition (to which some are allergic). It's in the pumphouse somewhere, along with other enigmatic curiosities of the Geo.archive. Achoo:

"You've been in the pumphouse. I smell it."
"Norma, it's the only place I can keep my archive protected and orderly."
"Orderly? You never clean out there."
"Any disturbance to my filing system would throw history into chaos."
"But that box has an inch of dust on it!"
"Precisely an inch? That would be May of '96. Can you photograph a few slides?"
"Only a few, before I start sneezing. This one first?"
"Please."
"Ewww, he's holding a dead cat."
"Shhh, this is where the essay begins!"
"I'll photo the others now...achoo!"

Now, to begin this scholarly essay in an academically acceptable manner, I shall say soberly, Ewww, He's holding a dead cat. The delivery boy has apparently introduced, into this 19th century home, an enigma. Father is puzzled. Mother and daughter share a giddy secret --they have perpetrated an April Fool joke, a crude one requiring much preparation, sadism and some expense. The scene does not pleasantly reward further speculation. Let's proceed to the next.
The party has got out of hand. Mr. Bottomley gets quarrelsome. Someone has swooned on the swooning couch. A footstool has overturned! Doubtless a constable will be summoned and there will be ructions, I tell you, ructions! Bottomley will be branded an ass. But Miss Longshanks' heroic brother will prosper, live long and someday sing basso in Peter, Paul and Mary. Let us proceed:
It is evident that a favorite female parlor pastime was painting the faces of men who had fallen asleep.
It is a recreation that, considering my own meditation habits, I am glad has passed from vogue. Some follies were not so gentle:
Consider the angry father ready to throttle the hired boy who climbs a sawbuck to give the daughter a kiss --recreating perhaps a folly from the old man's own youth. Ah, fathers, affectionately called Dad or Poppa, Pa or any variation consistent with the word left off the next view:
"Snores just like..." We can, as can every family that bought a copy of this card, readily furnish a name to complete the caption, much to everyone's delight except Pa, who falls asleep in church, and feels pleasantly foolish in the fun. April Fool is a celebration, not of our immunity from folly, but our survival under its influence.

Sometime during his long and productive life, Herbert Spencer wrote, "The ultimate effect of shielding men from folly is to fill the world with fools."  It would seem that process is always underway. It is a source of measureless comfort to us men everywhere, everywhen. 

On the behalf of my gender and our species, I wish all humanity a happy April Fools' Day!

3/31? Close enough.

"Achoo!"

 

27 comments:

  1. One of my work colleagues from way back once said to me that 'you never laugh at anyone who slips on a banana skin (a figurative one, that is. You laugh only when the person who placed the banana skin there slip himself.' I guess you may have correctly concluded that I look upon April Fools' day with grave disfavour.

    Having said that, I cannot but admire your commitment to the telling of great and important historical events. It is my hope that, as Lucy and I are flying to the UK shortly, the pilot doesn't take it into his head to play an early April Fool's joke on us. Heck, we might finish up in your lovely US of A. What would history say of that I wonder? :)

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    1. I suspect history says "oops" a lot, but am confident your UK hop will go well.

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  2. Am I the only one hoping that the cat isn't really dead? After all, April Fool pranks are harmless.....aren't they? This is a delightful read, Geo. and your commentary is even more delightful than the photos.

    I read "The Canterbury Tales" when I was a teenager. Chaucer was still alive at that time and I have an autographed copy to prove it. As for the scratch and sniff version - - I think it's available on Amazon.

    April Fool??

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    1. I have trouble with the cat prop too. As every kid learns, pulling the tail in any direction turns the animal into an efficient shredder. It's a strange scene.

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  3. There is nobody like you Geo who can be so very entertaining ...
    You are a genius in your words and comic ability ..

    You make me smile so very often!
    Thank you..
    Great post!

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    1. Kind Margie, I hope to improve on this early experimental archive-post and really appreciate your encouragement.

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    2. I came by again (before bedtime) just to say "thank you so much for the kind words" on my poem today.
      You are truly kind, Geo
      Good Night ..

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    3. Wasn't just being kind, Angel. I was being accurate. G'nite, Margie.

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    4. You truly are too kind, my mom always called me angel (not sure it was deserved as according to one of my sister's I was a 'little devil" LOL
      And I have a good blogger friend that always calls me angel and now you did ...awwww, that is so special to me ... Hugs kind sir ..

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    5. At my age, I know an angel when I encounter one.

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  4. My elderly father was just recently recalling that April Fool's Day was an exciting day for him and his siblings growing up. It was an occasion that didn't require money to be successful. It didn't even require a dead cat. Ew. Ew. Ew.

    I need a swooning couch.

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    1. There must be a great number of recreations that don't require cats.

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  5. Actually several nations celebrate a form of April Fool's Day. They don't always fall on April 1st but they are close. They celebrate in slightly different ways such as pinning a paper fish on someone's back or throwing colored powders at others. All in good fun of course.
    I found it interesting that I saw most of your pictures as death scenes. Perhaps I have a deep rooted psychological problem.

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    1. No, the problem isn't psychological, it's looking back at a kind of silliness that didn't fit the still-life tableau. Slapstick only works when there's motion.

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    2. Well there is the problem. I never really found slapstick funny.

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  6. For some of us, April Fool's Day is an invitation for everyone to join our world.

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    1. True! Getting silly is far too healthful to confine to only one day per year.

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  7. Dear Geo., thank you for this enlightening post! I think the man holds in his hands "Schrödingers Katze". Dead or living - that's overl-app-lapp-lapping.

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    1. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one possibility or the other. Could Schrödinger's experiment have begun as an April Fools prank?

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  8. Oddly, I only have one minor thing to add. The first know utterance regarding April Fool's Day was actually in March, in Rome, circa 44 BCE, by Julius The C. Many still think his last words were "Et tu, Brutus?"......wrong. He muttered "April iam?" (April already?).

    For myself, I'll perhaps be like the character in "Cat's Cradle", and thumb my nose at 'you know who'.....it actually looks like I may have another few years here, if medico's like myself are to be believed.

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    1. Thanks, Mike, for good news. I've been waiting. As for Bokonon's closing lines, I prefer your "April I am?" --so much more adaptable to calypso than Shakespeare's line and more dignified than nosethumbing.

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  9. Anointing the face of a sleeping person is still popular round these parts. They also pile up objects on the sleeper's body and play a form of 'Buckaroo.' Cats are rarely involved but quarrelsomeness can happen. Laughing at ourselves is healthy, that's the important point.
    Happy Fool's Day everyone :-)

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. It must be healthy generally because some form of the goofy day seems to have sprung up everywhere.

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  10. Hi Geo - interesting ... I had no idea April Fool's went back so far .. but I'm being bamboozled by my own reading. There were some amazing April Fool's jokes played over the years - the spaghetti tree being the one I most easily remember .. .now everyone's too tied up in their own world and the world has gone so crazy - almost anything could be true ... or false ... but a great read - cheers Hilary

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    1. Agreed, the world has leaned more toward crazy than silly lately. Might be fun to watch for goofy news stories today!

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  11. I hope you didn't fall for some foolish prank yesterday and what a tale those pump house photos tell.

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    1. Thanks, Sage. Sometimes my memory plays tricks on me but even it behaved well on the 1st.

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