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Fun on Friday: April Fools!

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So, this week was April Fools’ day. I’ve never really been into practical jokes, but I did post something on Facebook to mark the day.

“Taxation is the price we pay for a civilized society.”

Amusingly, a few people actually took me seriously. They don’t know me very well!

So, where did the tradition of April Fools’ Day come from? Like a lot of traditions, nobody really knows.

Some people attribute it to The Nun’s Priest’s Tale in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. In the story, a fox tricks a vain rooster on Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Some people have taken this to mean March 32, which would be April 1. But there are other details in the story that cast doubt on this.

Some historians think April Fools’ Day might be related to a Roman holiday called Hilaria (Latin for joyful). Followers of the cult of Cybele celebrated the festival at the end of March. People dressed up in disguises and mocked fellow citizens. They also mocked politicians and magistrates, something I can get behind.

Another theory is that April Fools’ Day derived from the fact that during the Middle Ages, most European towns celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25. In some French towns, the celebration extended until April 1. The theory is folks who celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1 created April Fools’ day to make fun of the March New Year celebrants. This seems very plausible to me given that most people aren’t very good at live and let live. We must mock those we disagree with!

In the Netherlands, April Fools’ Day is associated with the Dutch victory over Spanish Duke Álvarez de Toledo in 1752 at Brielle. A Dutch proverb, Op 1 april verloor Alva zijn bril  translates, “On the first of April, Alva lost his glasses,” making the Duke the April fool. But this doesn’t explain why we play pranks on each other on April 1 here in the USA.

The first British reference to April Fools came from philosopher John Aubrey. He referred to the day as “Fools holy day.” On April 1, 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed.”

And as with most western traditions, some say there is a biblical connection. In 1908, Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Bertha McDonald wrote the following.

Authorities gravely back with it to the time of Noah and the ark. The London Public Advertiser of March 13, 1769, printed: ‘The mistake of Noah sending the dove out of the ark before the water had abated, on the first day of April, and to perpetuate the memory of this deliverance it was thought proper, whoever forgot so remarkable a circumstance, to punish them by sending them upon some sleeveless errand similar to that ineffectual message upon which the bird was sent by the patriarch.'”

This dovetails (see what I did there?) with the Irish tradition of entrusting an unwary victim with an important letter to deliver. When that person reads the letter, he directs the hapless victim to take it to somebody else. One and on it goes until either the victim reads the letter or somebody feels sorry for the poor soul and reveals the message:  “Send the fool further.”

This reminds me of a joke we used to play on new ramp agents in the airline business. We’d send a poor unwary rookie to other airlines at the airport to borrow some “prop wash.” At each stop, the victim would be informed that they were out of prop wash, “But I think Delta has some.” You’d be surprised at how many people fell for this. (I did not.)

So, in the spirit of the season, I have the ultimate April Fools’ joke for 2021. It comes to us courtesy of the newest member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Christopher Waller did his first public speech last Monday and he included a little April Fools’ joke a few days early. He claimed the Fed is not keeping monetary policy loose in order to enable the US government to run big deficits.

“My goal today is to definitively put that narrative to rest. It is simply wrong,” Waller said. “Monetary policy has not and will not be conducted for these purposes.”

After all, the Fed is completely independent of the US government!

April Fools!

Fun on Friday is a weekly SchiffGold feature. We dig up some of the off-the-wall and off-beat stories relating to precious metals and share them with you – with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Click here to read other posts in this series.

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About The Author

Michael Maharrey is the managing editor of the SchiffGold blog, and the host of the Friday Gold Wrap Podcast and It's Your Dime interview series.
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