Poisson d’Avril!

Poisson d’Avril!


Spring is Here!

En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil “, says the traditional French proverb.

Despite these words of wisdom, AUCP students are breaking out the t-shirts and putting away their winter coats to advantage of the Provençal springtime.  Spring officially sprung March 20th, and while Paris endures rain and cold, Provence is basking in the sun! Restaurant terraces are filling up once more, the Aixois and Marseillais are all smiles, and open-air markets are slowly but surely bringing in the ripe red strawberries and tall green asparagus that mark the beginning of Spring and Summertime seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Spring also brings out the jokester in all of us with the poisson d’avril, the French equivalent of April Fools’ Day. Traditionally, French children try to stick a paper cut-out of a paper fish on the backs of their friends. When their unsuspecting playmates suddenly discover the ruse, the prankster shouts, “poisson d’avril!”

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The Origin of the Poisson d’Avril

The origins of the fish tradition are not agreed upon, but the most common hypothesis points to the 16th century, when France was under the rule of King Charles IX.  At the time, the calendar year began the 1st of April, but King Charles declared that the New Year would begin the 1st of January instead. Certain disgruntled citizens insisted on continuing to celebrate the New Year on the 1st of April, and the tradition of exchanging gifts soon gave way to playing pranks on one another.  The tradition of the poisson is rumored to be linked to the fact that the 1st of April falls during Christian period of Lent, a time when Christians gave up meat. Giving fake fish became a common joke.

Nowadays, practical jokes are the norm, but the tradition of the paper fish remains, especially for school children in France.

This year, the French media got in on the game of the poisson d’avril:  the website for the Nouvel Observateur & Rue89 (similar to HuffPost) announced that the recently mandated smoke detectors all contained spy equipment from the French government.   On their Twitter page, Reebok France announced that too many French people incorrectly pronounced their name, and that they were renaming the brand it to make it more easily pronouncable for the French: Ribook  (with a proper French accent, Ribook would sound like Reebok).  And, the European Organization for Nuclear Research,  CERN, announced April 1st that they had proved the existence of the Jedi Force!

Meanwhile at the AUCP, we tried to tape paper fish on the backs of our French professors, but they were not about to be fooled. Our poisson d’avril plans were foiled…so we’ll try again next year…

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The Vocabulary of Pranks…in French!

Want to review your French jokester vocab? We’ve got you covered!

  • Une farce : a practical joke, a prank
  • Une blague : a joke (physical or verbal)
  • Une plaisanterie : a joke (verbal)
  • Une histoire drôle : a joke, a funny story (only verbal)
  • Un jeu de mot : a pun, word play
  • Faire une farce : to make a joke
  • Dire/faire une blague : to say/make a joke
  • Blaguer : to joke (je blague), colloquial
  • Plaisanter : to joke
  • Drôle, amusant, comique : funny
  • Marrant, rigolo (slang): funny
  • Hilarant : extremely funny
  • Se moquer de : make fun of
  • Sourire : to smile
  • Le sourire : smile
  • Rire : to laugh
  • Le rire : a laugh
  • Rigoler : to laugh (colloquial)
  • La rigolade : laughter, fun (colloquial)
  • Un fou rire : when you cannot stop laughing
  • Éclater de rire : to burst in laughter, to start laughing really hard
  • Pleurer de rire : to cry from laughter
  • Je suis mort(e) de rire : dead laughing = MDR / LOL
  • Je suis pété(e) de rire : broken in two from laughter = PTR / LOL
  • Hihi : haha or heehee

Joyeux 1e avril!


AUCP Le Blog is your go-to hub for all things French. From French pop culture to French traditions to language help, it’s happening here! You can check out other tidbits about the French and France, here. But the best way to get up to date is to learn from the French themselves, by living with and like the French at the AUCP. To learn more about the opportunities for immersion and interaction with the French host community, visit the Immersion section of the AUCP website.