Poisson d'Avril - April Fool's Day in France & Paper Fish Tradition
Friday, April 01, 2011
It's April Fish Day in France and Smokey's hunting for a live one... Smokey Dear, you still don't get it, do you? But then, I don't understand how the French got "fish" from "fool" either ("fool ish"?).
Poisson d'Avril! (pwah soh(n) dah vreel)
: April Fool!
Audio File: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce the words in the following sentence: Download MP3 or Wav
Attention à votre dos... aujourd'hui, c'est "Poisson D'Avril"!
Watch your back... today's is "April 'Fish' Day"!
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse
Today is April Fool's Day and all across France people are minding their backs... lest a sneaky jester attempt The Paper Fish Attack!
In addition to inventing histoires (and oh, by the way, this is the very last "word-a-day"!), the French will be fashioning paper cutouts (shaped like un poisson) in time to tape them on some aloof one's back. (So soyez prudents and be on your guard!)
At the venerable age of thirteen, Jackie tells me she is too old for the traditional fish cutout, that she and her friends will be honoring the tradition by taping embarrassing notes to each others dos:"Tapez-moi" and "Je suis nul(le)" rate among the most popular signs.
I think the blagueurs would do well to expand their repertoire: in place of "Hit Me!" and "I'm a Dork!", they might embarrass their targets by tacking on one of these messages:
"J'ai besoin de tendresse!"
I need love!
"J'adore les guili-guili!"
I love tickles!
"Chantez-moi une chanson d'amour"
Sing me a love song!
Chuchotez dans mes oreilles, SVP!
Whisper in my ears, please!
Voilà. Up to you to procure a roll of tape and a pair of ciseaux in time to design your own Fish crimes! Colleagues, teachers, bus drivers, babies, grandparents... all are fair game today!
Le Coin Commentaires
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French Vocabulary... followed by Related "April Fool" Terms
une histoire = a "story" (as in "tall story")
un poisson = fish
le dos = back
Tapez-moi! = Hit me!
Je suis nul(le)! = I'm a zero!
blagueur/blagueuse m/f = jokers, jokesters
Related Terms on April Fools'
se gausser = to mock
un canular = a hoax
faire un canular à quelqu'un = to play a hoax on someone
une plaisanterie = a joke
accrocher un poisson = to stick a fish (on another's back)
la victime du canular = the victim of the prank
Back in the day... Jackie made these when she was 8-years-old. Read about them, click here - you'll also read about the roof tile thief!
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety
And if this is, in fact, the last French Word a Day .. I have finally managed to be first to comment from exactly half way round the world ... and wouldn't you know it, I have nothing to say. Sigh .... :) Aloha (with a smile)! Bill Facker
Posted by: Bill Facker | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 11:26 AM
I hope that last French word a day remark was an April Fool as my day would be a lot emptier without them
Posted by: Enid Wilson | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 11:28 AM
We are packing our bags. Best of all, we are moving in with you. Permanently.
Consider yourself attacked by a fish!
Posted by: Margaret in Durham | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 11:49 AM
What do you mean: "Oh by the way, this is the very last word-a-day'? You can't leave us now! We are addicted! Please tell me this is your April Fool's joke!
Posted by: Sybil Kretzmer | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Salut tout le monde,
Some interesting facts surrounding this day; From a Google search, it appears that April Fools Day originated in France in the 16th century when King Charles XIV changed the beginning of the calendar year to January 1st from the end of March.
Some people didn’t get the word and others resisted change and they were tagged as “fish”; apparently relating to the archeological sign of Pisces which falls near April.
I guess the question is; how did the word “fish” evolve to ‘fool” in some parts of the world?
Posted by: Herm in Phoenix, Az | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 12:33 PM
Love the "shadow of a tongue". Happy April Fool's day!
Posted by: Bill in St. Paul | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 12:38 PM
oops....Zodiac sign, not archeological
Posted by: Herm in Phoenix, Az | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Really the last time, or just bait pour un poisson d'Avril?
Posted by: Mike in South Africa | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Thanks so much for the reminder. Now I need to make my sign before my French husband gets home from work - to put on his back! Cynthia in the French Alps
Posted by: cynthia caughey | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 01:20 PM
I always had fun as a kid playing April Fools jokes on my dad. He loved Twinkies and one time I took out the cream from the inside and replaced it with shaving cream. I think that was the best one.
Thanks Herm for a little more information on April Fool's Day.
Posted by: Eileen deCamp | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 01:27 PM
...isn't it too late after 12 noon?
Posted by: Maureen Winterhager | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Please tell us all you were making your own April Fool's joke ( and not a very funny one)when you said this was the last word-a-day??
Posted by: Jacqueline Gill | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 01:51 PM
The last FWAD?! Horrors! Sending you Bijou and Boomerang since you'll have plenty of time to photograph lots of dogs! Consider yourself fished. Oh, and they love dinde pour le dejeuner.
Posted by: Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 02:16 PM
The oft-used expression "I've got your back," takes on a whole other meaning today. Vive les poissons! Loved the wall of Jackie's poissons. Tres creatif!
Posted by: Pat Cargill | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Please tell us that the "last WAD" was an April Fool (Fish) prank. We would miss you so much.
Posted by: Karen Graham | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 03:05 PM
I absolutely adore the photo on this post! Is it your dog?
Posted by: villas in provence | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Good morning Kristin, I love your suggestions for what should be on the notes. I am going to try it on my family. Maybe we can start a new tradition.
Posted by: Sharon | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 03:20 PM
All those warnings about watching backs and everyone being fair game --- and still people fell for it!
Here in Italy, as in France, it is "pesce d'aprile". When I was growing up in England and of an age to try and make April fools of people, we believed that if you played a trick after noon, it came back on you and you were the April fool instead. One had to work fast since it wasn't an all-day event!
Posted by: Passante | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 03:43 PM
"Poisson d'Avril"..... "Poisson d'avril"!
shout the French children, pointing at the fish (or chain of fish) stuck -or pinned- on someone's back....
Bursting with laughter, listen to them adding: " Poisson d'avril,
pour attraper les im-bé-ciles!"
Ok Jackie, you may feel a bit too old for that, of course. I suppose it depends on whether or not your own friends share that sort of mood, but if they do, join in and have a good laugh!
Whoever gets a fish stuck on his back without noticing is an idiot / a fool! "Le premier avril" is "le jour de fête des imbéciles" -> 'Feast of Fools'? Well, it is certainly "le jour des farces".
In the Anglo-Saxon world, the "Poisson d'avril" day is called 'April Fool's day'. It has nothing to do with fish - only practical jokes, pranks, hoaxes. As in France, it is a day when 'derision' is fully authorised!
Just under the photo with the colourful fish drawn by Jackie 5 years ago, --> is the "Boost your assets" ad with the lady in pink bras, and UK website of "La Senza" a 1st April joke for the British readers?
Photos: "Mille mercis pour le ruisseau", and wishing we get the pleasure to see lots of other delightful spots "le long de ce petit cours d'eau".
Dear Smokey, we might get more "photos du ruisseau" if you took the habit to inspect that wet area -or pretended to be lost (no, that wouldn't be a good idea). Well, think about any good trick to pull Kristin (+ camera) along the attractive brook. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation!
Posted by: Newforest | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Here is something relevant to creating one's own passion. I must share this amazing live video cam of baby eagles in their nest in Virginia. Mesmerizing parenting at its best and super commentary/live chat. Be careful. It is addicting. A passion for new life, parental love, for the perfection of nature, for the abundance all around and....this super technology that allows us to experience our unity.
Posted by: Ahulani | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Oops! I was so engrossed, I forgot the link!
Posted by: Ahulani | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 04:20 PM
The festivals of practical joking and mischief-making related to the coming of Spring date back to Ancient Roman times . "Au Moyen Age" (= in the Middle Ages) , in certain regions, New Year was celebrated on the 25th March - time corresponding to the beginning of Spring but also time marking the end of "le Carême" (= Lent). All in all, good reasons to celebrate! Besides, Christian people were not allowed to eat meat during "le Carême". They ate fish... By the end of that period, I'm wondering whether they were fed up with fish and turned it into derision ... maybe, maybe not, but I like the idea!
On the other hand, when New Year's day became officially transferred to the 1st of January, the First of April became "Fool's day" -> a day when people would make fun of the old New Year's day - a day for jokes and pranks.
I looked for more details about 'April Fool's day' and found this link
No end of well known pranks! Have a good laugh! I wish this evening on TV they will show us again the famous BBC spoof documentary broadcast about spaghetti crops in Switzerland.
French vintage postcards and First of April:
I will come back later to tell you about the "premier avril" French vintage postcards that circulated around 1900 (à la Belle Epoque) ... incredible!
Posted by: Newforest | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Merci mille fois for the fascinating link.
I can't tell you how much I understand your "being so engrossed".
I didn't get any sound but will try again.
I'd like to give you a link from my area of UK... the New Forest.
Here it is for you and whoever is interested:
The goshawk is not as spectacular as the eagle, and the female has not laid any egg yet!
Today, the wildcam is having technical problems, but try again tomorrow (not sure how many hours there are between your place in the US and here in the UK).
Meanwhile, you might like to listen to Chris Packham... and enjoy exploring the site.
Posted by: Newforest | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Late yesterday afternoon I hurried into my bedroom to check and see if I had any messages from you - "MOM, WHERE ARE YOU, I'VE BEEN CALLING ALL DAY?!!? I fooled you - changed my routine - finally - and you were the first person I fooled yesterday (always a day early.) I laughed to myself because I knew you would probably call and I had instructed Adela to answer the phone and speak three words of English to you 'Mom bus downtown'. Adela is so shy I think she decided to run the vacume (sp?)all morning so she would not hear the ringing of the phone.
It was one of those mornings - I hadn't been out of the house for quite a long time, actually since Kristi left. I guess that makes it one of my infamous 6-week hibernations. Oh, I walk around the Marina with Breezy, snorkel around our pool, but no adventures since Kristi's departure.
I had the greatest day - as I hummed my favorite line from '50 ways to leave your lover' = "Get on the bus, Gus" or is it Bill, I can't seem to remember his correct name. I placed my feet firmly in the middle of the cobblestone road waiting for the bus to appear so I could shoot my first photo.
Seven hours later I wandered up the stairs to our little condo still singing "Oh, what a beautiful day."
One of my new friends (off the cruise ship) has promised to write a post for FWAD - our April Fool's day gift to you - we're not foolin'.
P.S. I am sure you have noticed before how I always address my notes to Kristi and then end up talking to you (all of my friends) - I just don't know how to fix this problem (or is it a blessing) what would I do without all of you?!
Posted by: Jules Greer | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Thanks for the reminder. I remember we, school girls, pasting a string of paper fish to our math teacher and the innocent him walked around with us, girls gigling like crazy and he then checked his back. Ah que de souvenirs d'enfance!
J'etais dans une ecole pour filles. Et les filles ne sont pas toujours douces et sages comme on l'imagine. Mais, pour nous, tu es une belle fleur de printemps aujourd'hui!
Posted by: Millie | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 05:41 PM
I really like this posting. My daughter, Amber, who lived in France last year knew exactly what "Poisson d'Avril" meant. As we were leaving for high school, she remembered she needed a fish for French class. Her younger sister being nice drew her un poisson pour la classe. Happy April Fool's! Did les fils get vous?
Posted by: Carolyn Stahl | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 06:09 PM
It's April "Fish" day in New York State, but that is because it is the first day of Trout Season, when fishermen are legally able to go out to the ponds, streams, brooks, rivers and lakes to catch the rainbows and browns and brooks. Otherwise it is also April Fool's Day as well.
This is your April Fool's joke for us, I hope? " 'oh, by the way, this is the very last "word-a-day'"
Posted by: Barbara Bell | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 08:06 PM
FRENCH VINTAGE POSTCARDS and 1st of April (as promised earlier)
While building up a collection of French CPAs, (CPA -> Carte Postale Ancienne = vintage postcard), I came across lots of '1st of April' postcards (I'm not collecting them) produced at the very beginning of the XXth century. It may sound unbelievable but in those days, the "cartes de premier avril" were more popular in France than Xmas cards.
They always show one (or several) fish, children or adults, flowers and sometimes "trèfle et fer à cheval" (= clover and horseshoe)
They were a way to attract attention and show your affection to someone. Typical formula printed on the cards? -> "Ce poisson vous dira combien je vous aime" (= this fish will tell you how much I love you). That's the basic idea!
As incredible as it may seem, you then realise that "à la Belle Epoque" in France, on the first of April, "le poisson" was the messenger of friendship and love, and not an object of derision and laughter!
By the way
1) zodiacal sign of Pisces? Febuary 20 to March 20 Hmm not very much help here.
2) no permission to fish in April - true!
3) aren't fish pretty dumb and easy to catch? yes and no...
By the way (4)
-> in England, the financial year still starts at the beginning of April (and that is NOT a joke!)
must get busy in the kitchen right now - not cooking fish today (we had some yesterday evening...)
Posted by: Newforest | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Bonsoir Kristin, ça doit être une faute de frappe. VictimE avec un E à la fin.
Posted by: Millie | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Kristin - Enjoying all your photos, which looks a lot more like spring than here in St. Paul. I really enjoy this site. I'd like to see your past entries archived somehow so that I can work through more of my French.
Posted by: A. in St. Paul | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Maybe I'm misinformed, but I thought the April Fool's tradition came from the "fete des fous" which harkens back to the mocking of Jesus on Good Friday before his Crucifixion (which is always around April 1st). The famous scene from Notre Dame de Paris when Quasimodo is made the king of the Fete des Fous was an example of being made an April Fool.
And speaking of April Fools, the Chicago Cubs are opening at home today!
Posted by: Joan Linneman | Friday, April 01, 2011 at 08:39 PM
I've always wanted to play a poisson d'avril joke on someone, but somehow, have never gotten around to it. My best Francophile friend lives a few states away. And the timing for events such as the wine-tasting is too early to be accurate, date-wise.
(Today I went to the same place where we had the tasting and dinner last month, to pick up J-M's rose, which had arrived. I could have gotten it sooner, but combined it with another errand so as to save time and money on the subway.)
When I was in 6th grade, one of the teachers at the school decided, as an April Fool joke, to let the air out of the other teahers' cars' tires. The faculty were not amused.
A couple of weeks later, my brother brought his white mouse to school for show and tell. The teachers borrowed it and put it into a Kleenex box. They arranged for a student to ask the teacher for a tissue. When she went to get one, she saw the mouse, and climbed onto her chair in fright. The kids cracked up. It was suitable revenge. A fish on her back would have been so appropriate!
Posted by: Marianne Rankin | Saturday, April 02, 2011 at 03:37 AM
Loved Eileen's April Fool's joke she shared--the shaving cream in the Twinkie, oh my! Jackie's fish are adorable and whimsical, a memento to keep for sure. Smokey at the stream is a beautiful scene.
You were a blagueuse-blogger today!! I didn't fall for it for a seconde. :-)
Posted by: Jennifer in OR | Sunday, April 03, 2011 at 03:40 AM
Anyone gardeners out there know how long it takes for donuts to come up? My neighbor brought some seeds over the other day in a Cheerio’s box. I planted them in my garden. I hope it doesn’t get too hot here in Phoenix
Posted by: Herm in Phoenix, Az | Sunday, April 03, 2011 at 08:58 PM
Well, I don't know much about the meaning of "Poisson d'Avril". It's a tradition in France. As a child, I used to attach a paper fish to someone's back for fun :)
Posted by: French online | Monday, April 04, 2011 at 06:59 AM
You had me! Completely forgot the date. And isn't it scary that I actually believed it could happen in France?
Posted by: Sue Lennox | Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 04:58 PM
Kristin, I love when your Mother pops on and shares ! What a dear lady.
Posted by: Kristi Word | Wednesday, April 01, 2015 at 11:05 PM
That was a great story! You did a wonderful job. You had me as well until the end. Yes, I have been to the ossuaire. I took a group of 12 students from my French classes on an exchange to Toulouse, then spent a week in Paris in 2004. That was one of the places that the students were interested in going. It is a two mile walk underground through the catacombs, but is very interesting. The bones are arranged in so many patterns and each area tells which cemetery they are from. My students reacted very well and were respectful while we were there. I have brought several more groups to Paris, but we have not gone back there. Someday, I would like to go back.
Posted by: Rosie Furston | Thursday, April 02, 2015 at 03:36 AM
Thanks and merci for making this day for me...loved the story and the images it brought to my mind. Also, i enjoy les postes sur instagram. Joyeux Avril.
Posted by: Jan | Thursday, April 02, 2015 at 06:20 AM