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April Fish! Fous d’Avril! Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Culture, Vocabulary

Humor can be a bit hard to understand in another language, whether it’s a knock knock joke, or an inside joke that you’re not in on. Heureusement (fortunately), April Fool’s Day exists in France. That said, it has a different set of traditions and a very different name: April Fish or in French, Poisson d’avril.

The holiday is celebrated with des plaisanteries et des canulars (jokes and pranks), but also by trying to accrocher un poisson de papier dans le dos de tes amis (stick paper fish on your friends’ backs)!

The name poisson d’avril comes from an old tradition dating back to 1564. La légende veut que (Legend has it that) the year used to start on April 1st, but was changed to January 1st by Charles IX. The old new year’s tradition involved a gift exchange, mais (but) some people n’étaient pas au courant du changement (were not aware of the change) and continued to exchange gifts on April 1st after le changement. Other people then used the occasion de se moquer d’eux (to make fun of them)!

But why fish? The old new year était pendant (was during) the end of le Carême (Lent). Christians would be fasting, but they could still eat fish. The joke of giving un faux poisson (a fake fish) began as une blague (a joke) on the old tradition of giving real fish as gifts. Donc le nom (Thus the name), poisson d’avril.

The tradition continues today and kids all over France will try to sneak up and accrocher un poisson papier dans le dos de ses amis. When the friend le découvre (finds out), the surprise is met with shouts of Poisson d’arvil! much the same way un gag similaire (a similar gag) would be met with April Fool’s! in the English speaking world.

Voici une liste de vocabulaire pour le poisson d’arvil:

Une plaisanterie – A joke
Une blague – A joke, a trick
Un canular – A prank
Un gag – A joke, a gag
Un poisson papier – A paper Fish
Poisson d’avril! – April Fools!
Accrocher un poisson de papier dans le dos de quelqu’un – Stick a paper fish on someone’s back

Start your pranking out right and accrochez un poisson de papier dans le dos de quelqu’un!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.