A Reason to Love April Fool’s: Haters Have Hated On It For 300 Years

"What an abuse of precious Time; what a Profanation!"
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Smithsonian

Yeah, it's April Fool's Day. Surprise!

Ugh. 

If you, like me, hate April Fool's Day, let me give you a reason to love it. You, in your hatred, connect with a long-line of similar haters down through the ages. April Fool's Day has been a thing for perhaps 450 years, at least in Flemish tradition, and I'd guess some people have been hating it every stupid April 1st.

Take Samuel Sewall, future chief justice of Massachusetts. He hated on April Fool's Day in 1708. 1708!

"What an abuse of precious Time; what a Profanation!" Sewall cried, according to a Boston history blog.

He went on to relate the kinds of hijinks that kids got up to in those days, before Tumblr.  They would tell a man, for example, that "his Shoes were unbuckled (when they were indeed buckled) and then he would stoop down to buckle them; and then he was an April Fool."

Oh snap! That is cold, yo. I love how you can feel the rage in the parenthetical, (when they were indeed buckled). That's almost as bad as the old XYZ trick (eXamine Your Zipper, for the uninitiated).

In this letter to two schoolmasters, he called upon them to shake the practice out of their pupils: "Insinuate into your Scholars, the defiling and provoking nature of such a Foolish practice; and take them off from it."

He was right of course. This is all a foolish practice. But it's also the sort of thing that reminds me of the three-dimensional reality of the people of history. They weren't just chief justices, they were also humans who got punked by kids in the street. 

 

Hat tip: Yoni Appelbaum, who on this day alone may allow me to call him Broni Snapplebaum.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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