April Fools' Day: how do this year's pranks measure up?
UN peacekeepers in Scotland and square eggs take on the spaghetti harvest and isles of San Serriffe
EVERY year on 1 April, British newspapers compete to concoct fantastical April Fools' news stories to confuse and amuse their readers.
This year has been no different, with a host of fake stories littering the news pages. This time round Scottish independence has proved a particular favourite for editors, while One Direction and Pokemon also make an appearance.
Here is a selection of some of this year's best efforts, but how do they compare to the all-time greats (below)?
THE PICK OF 2014:
One Direction banned from North Korea
The Daily Mirror reports that boy band One Direction will not be allowed to enter North Korea unless they get their hair cut to resemble Kim Jong-un. The despot will also reportedly be starting his own X Factor-style competition show to find his own band – which the paper wittily dubs 'Un Direction'.
Experts on ITV have declared themselves "baffled" by the appearance of a square egg. The shape apparently makes it convenient for eating, and "it also means making egg sarnies has become even simpler".
The Daily Mail has an exclusive insight into how the "Scot-free' Union flag will look in the event of Scottish independence. "Secret Government papers propose ditching the cross of St Andrew, a white X on a blue background, that makes up a third of the current design if Scotland votes for independence," it explains.
Independent on independence
The Independent takes a different line with its story on Scottish independence, claiming that the UN is planning to send peacekeepers to the border should Scotland vote "Yes". But headwear for the peacekeeping force may present a problem, the Independent reports: "Fears that the traditional ‘blue helmet’ colour scheme of UN peacekeepers could be misinterpreted as a show of support for an independent Scotland have led to a rethink on what headwear UNPPICT (the UN Prevention Programme for Inter-Caledonian Tensions) personnel might wear. A 'neutral' purple beret is the favoured alternative."
Left or right?
The Guardian's take on the Scottish question concerns the road system. If Scotland goes it alone then there will be significant changes for drivers, claims the paper, with proposals to switch from driving on the left to the right.
Caring is sharing
Peace in North London at last, as Tottenham Hotspur agree to a "groundshare" plan with arch-rivals Arsenal. According to the Daily Express the two clubs will cohabit at the Emirates Stadium. A club source tells the paper that "fans may have waited nearly a decade for glory but this move immediately doubles the chance of the Emirates crowd seeing a trophy won".
Why bigger is better
Ocado claims it has devised the world’s largest tablet with its brand new 42-inch 'sLablet'. The new device is "streamlined, ulta-unportable, aggressively accessible, and uncooperatively user-friendly". An Ocado spokesman explains: "We plugged the vacant 42-inch gap in the market."
Google seeks Pokemon master
Part promotional tool, part joke, Google has released Pokemon characters on its mapping service and announced that it is looking to recruit a new "Pokemon master" to join its maps team. While the game is real, the position is not.
ALL TIME GREATS:
YouTube closes down
Last year YouTube announced that it would stop accepting videos and go into a decade-long hiatus to judge which clip submitted to the site should be awarded the title of "Best video on the internet". YouTube said: "We are so close to the end. Tonight at midnight, YouTube.com will no longer be accepting entries. After eight amazing years, it's finally time to review everything that has been uploaded to our site and begin the process of selecting a winner."
Google Nose Beta
Google told the world it had launched a new product called Google Nose last year, complete with its own "aromabase", using the tag line "smelling is believing". The company announced the new product on 31 March, 2013 in a tweet from its new Google Nose account: "We're excited to announce our newest addition to Search: Google Nose. What do wet dogs smell like? Google Nose!" In spite of the whole thing stinking to high heaven, many users failed to smell a rat.
The joke was on the editors of the Daily Mirror when its spoof story on the construction of a Titanic Two actually turned out to be true. Just a month after the story was printed in 2012, one of the world's richest men, Clive Palmer, announced plans to build a replica of the Titanic. The paper congratulated itself on its "scoop".
The spaghetti harvest
CNN called it "the biggest hoax any reputable news establishment ever pulled". In 1957, Richard Dimbleby lent his voice to a BBC Panorama program about how Swiss farmers were struggling to cope with "an exceptionally heavy spaghetti crop". The director-general of the BBC, Ian Jacob, admitted to being fooled himself, looking up "spaghetti" in his encyclopaedia.
Richard Branson's UFO
In 1989, entrepreneur Richard Branson planned an audacious hoax to generate publicity for his new airline. Branson took to the skies in a hot air balloon shaped like a UFO, aiming to land in Hyde Park in London on 1 April. Unfortunately, the balloon was blown off course, and ended up touching down in a field in Surrey. Still, the hoax fooled some motorists on the M25, several of whom made emergency calls to the police to report sightings of an alien spaceship.
In another case of marketing genius, fast-food chain Burger King announced a new left-handed Whopper in 1998 with a full-page ad in USA Today with "the condiments rotated 180 degrees". The burger, it said, would be easier to hold for the 10 per cent of the population who are left-handed. Good sense and good taste, it seems, did not stop people across the US from heading out to purchase one.
The isles of San Serriffe
The Guardian's most successful April Fools' Day prank came in 1977 when the paper published a seven-page travel supplement on the tropical island of San Serriffe, "a small archipelago, its main islands grouped roughly in the shape of a semicolon, in the Indian Ocean". The special report was packed with typographical jokes including Bodoni, the capital, which is a variety of typeface, and the two main islands – Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Kodak took out an ad in the edition asking readers to send in their holiday pictures of San Serriffe "before noon today".
Planetary alignment decreases gravity
In 1976, British astronomer Patrick Moore told BBC radio listeners that at 9.47am a rare alignment of Pluto and Saturn would temporarily decrease gravity on Earth. Moore said that if people jumped in the air at that exact moment they would experience a floating sensation. Many users, curiously, rang in to say that they had felt the effect.
Dormant volcano 'erupts'
In Sitka, Alaska, the Mount Edgecumbe volcano that had lain dormant for 9,000 years suddenly began spewing a plume of dark smoke in 1974. When the coastguard team flew in to investigate, they discovered 100 burning tyres near the volcano's crater – the work of local man Oliver Bickar who had planned the stunt for four years.
Alabama redefines Pi
Physicist Mark Boslough wrote an article in the April 1998 issue of New Mexicans for Science and Reason under the pen name "April Holiday" suggesting that the Alabama legislature had redefined Pi from 3.14 to 3.0 to bring it closer to the "biblical value". State legislators were reportedly deluged with phone calls insisting that Pi be left alone. ·