A "poisson d'avril" is a joke made on April 1st. In France, children try to stick a fish picture on their friends' back. When the joke is discovered, they shout "poisson d'avril !"
The origin of "poisson d'avril", celebrated on April 1st, is controversial, but the most common hypothesis is that it originated in the 16th century.
In 1564, King Charles IX decided that the year would not begin on 1 April but on 1 January. This change also moved the exchange of gifts and presents that marked the transition to the new year. To sow doubt about the actual date of the New Year, some persisted in offering presents in April. With time, the little gifts of April turned into gifts for laughter, jokes and then stratagems to trap others.
Why choose the "fish"? If jokes are now known as "poisson d'avril" ("April Fish"), this goes back to the 16th century. The gifts that were offered in April were often food. This date being at the end of Lent, period during which the consumption of meat is prohibited among the Christians, fish was the most frequent present. When the jokes developed, one of the most common traps was the offering of fake fish.
And in other countries? The tradition of the joke of April 1, gradually spread. It is expressed in different ways depending on the country. In English, the "poisson d'avril" is the April's Fool Day. In England, jokes are only made in the morning and if you are trapped, you are "a noodle". In Scotland, be twice as vigilant as in France because jokers can also strike on April 2. In Mexico, the only trick is to steal the good of a friend. The victim will have in exchange sweets and a small note telling him something like "I caught you!". There is even an Indian version of the April fish: it takes place on 31 March and is called the "Huli" festival.
To conclude this article, I leave you with some French vocabulary adapted to our day's subject :
- Une farce : a practical joke, a prank
- Une blague : a joke (action or verbal)
- Une plaisanterie : a joke (verbal)
- Une histoire drôle : a funny story
- Un jeu de mot : a pun
- Faire une farce : to make a joke
- Dire/faire une blague : to say/make a joke
- Blaguer : to joke (je blague)
- Plaisanter : to joke
- Drôle, amusant, comique, poilant/marrant/rigolo (slang), cocasse (very formal) : funny
- Hilarant : extremely funny
- Sourire : to smile
- Rire / Rigoler : to laugh
- Le rire : laugher
- Un fou rire : when you can't stop laughing
- Hurler de rire : to laugh really hard and loud
- Éclater de rire : to burst in laughter, to start laughing really hard
- Pleurer de rire : to cry from laughter
- Se taper une barre (de rire)/des barres de rire : to laugh till it hurts (expressions used by the youngs nowadays)
- Je suis mort(e) de rire : dead laughing = MDR
- Je suis pété(e) de rire : broken in two from laughter (also j’ai pété de rire: I farted from laughing) = PTDR
- MDR, PTDR = LOL