Medieval “Typo” Results in International Day of Foolery

Modern scholars believe Chaucer’s passage meant 32 days after March, or May 2.

Photo of April 1 calendar.

April Fools!

Can you believe it? The worldwide custom of playing pranks on your friends and family on April 1 actually has its roots in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which dates back to the early 1390s. As the tale goes, the cocky cock, Chauntecleer, dismisses premonitions of his own death only to be tricked by a cagey fox whose main objective was securing another delicious chicken dinner. (He’d already made a couple of satisfying meals of Chauntecleer’s mom and pop.) Physic chickens and Col. Sanders’ original original recipes aside, the adoption of April 1 as the international holiday for ticking off your loved ones with you obnoxious adolescent practical jokes may have resulted from a 14th centuryy typo (a.k.a. copying error.)  Instead of “March 32,” interpreted as April 1, modern scholars believe Chaucer’s passage meant 32 days after March, or May 2.

Think about it! The next time you covertly place a fake dog poop pile next to granny’s rocking chair, you could have been yelling, May 2nd Fools!” On the other hand, I don’t think that would have caught on.

What do you call a scary chicken?

A poultrygeist.

Copyright © 2019 by Patra Taylor Bucher. All rights reserved.

Author: Patra Taylor

A freelance writer for three decades, Patra Taylor is currently a regular columnist and features correspondent for the Charleston Mercury. In that capacity, she has interviewed numerous Charleston celebrities along with a few national figures including FOX News political commentator, Tucker Carlson; Washington, D.C. insider-turned-winemaker, Bear Dyke; and country music singer/songwriter, Philip Claypool. She is also a regular contributor to Charleston Style and Design and the Southeast Film Guide.

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