April Fools' Day history? Be wary of those who say they know.
April Fools' Day history is murky, and nobody knows its origins. So beware any Boston University professors who claim it originated in the court of Constantine.
(Page 2 of 2)
Boskin relented, spinning a yarn that the holiday originated in Istanbul in the court of Constantine when "the jesters decided to unionize." The king was so amused that he agreed to give up the throne to a jester for the day. The first-ever April fool was Kugel (Boskin thought of the name because his friend especially enjoyed the Jewish pudding), who declared it a day of absurdities.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"All I could hear in the background was click, click, click," Boskin says, mimicking the sound of the reporter's clacking typewriter. After the AP printed the story, Boskin got calls from the "Today" show and newspapers around the US and Canada. Only weeks later, in one of his history classes, did he reveal the hoax to his students. Unbeknown to Boskin, the school newspaper's editor in chief was in the class, and the professor's confession appeared on the front page the next day.
BU's press office and the AP were livid, Boskin says. He kept his job only because he had tenure. The wire service's New England bureau chief accused him of ruining the life of a young reporter, and the reporter himself called Boskin in tears.
"The New England chief accused me of lying.... I accused the AP of being sanctimonious. Rather than blame themselves [for failing to fact-check], they took it out on me. They sent out a story: 'Professor lies about April Fools Day.' "
While the media in this case didn't appreciate the hoax, the media have a history of pulling pranks on the public on April 1. In 1965, the BBC interviewed the inventor of “smellovision,” which purportedly allowed viewers to smell whatever was on TV (it really was invented for movies). Today, British media reported that William Shakespeare was half French and that someone had invented the flavored headline.
Boskin finally buried the hatchet on his 1983 April Fools' Day joke last year, when he had lunch with the AP reporter. As it happened, the reporter had become a fellow professor at BU.
"I've written three or four books, [and] many articles," Boskin says, "but this seems to be my Andy Warhol moment, a spontaneous story about Kugel."