April Fool’s Day (Is Over) Posted by on Apr 5, 2011 in Culture, language, when in Russia


Do you celebrate April Fool’s Day? Many Russians do since «чувство юмора» [sense of humor] is a valued quality. In fact, many personal ads include this «чувство юмора» as a must-have quality for «серьёзные отношения» [meaningful relationship].

«Но вернёмся к нашим баранам» [But let’s get back to business; lit. – let’s get back to our rams]. «День дурака» [Fool’s Day] is also known as «день смеха» [Day of Laughter]. Russians celebrate it with pranks and Russian media – with fake news, press releases and promotions. In short, «каждый прикалывается, как может» [everyone spoofs any way they can].

The verb «прикалывать» means “to be pinned”, but «прикалываться» means “to prank” or “to have fun”.

«Объявления на доске прикалывать только с разрешения владельца магазина» [Flyers are to be pinned to the board only with store owner’s permission]

«Ребята это объявление повесили чтобы поприкалываться» [Lads posted this flyer just for fun]

Hence one of the meanings of the word «прикол» is “a prank”:

«Мы придумали классный первоапрельский прикол!» [We came up with an awesome April Fool’s prank]

Don’t get it confused with a word «накалывать» [to prank or con someone], «накалываться» [to fall victim to a prank or a con].

«Тебя накололи – продали фальшивую чёрную икру» [They conned you by selling you fake caviar]

«Я так накололся на покупке этой машины. Зря тебя не послушал!» [Buying this car was a bad choice for me. Should’ve listened to you!]

The least imaginative prank I can think of is to tell someone «у тебя вся спина белая» [your back is all white]. I’m not 100% sure why people say this, but I think the story goes something like this:

The walls in old Soviet Union administrative offices, government buildings, schools, barracks and even staircases and hallways in apartment buildings were painted only to a certain height (usually between waist and shoulder height). Anything higher than that was not painted, but whitewashed using «побелка» [lime paste]. So if you leaned against a wall, you would likely get the dry chalky lime powder all over your back.

As I said, I think it’s one of the least funny of the «первоапрельские шутки» [April Fool’s jokes] or «первоапрельские розыгрыши» [April Fool’s pranks]. Another one would be «у тебя шнурки развязались» [your shoelaces are untied].

The key to a good April Fool’s joke is it should be «безобидная» [inoffensive], «правдоподобная» [believable] and «без последствий» [without consequences]. A great April Fool’s joke, on the other hand, will be all that plus «свежая» [fresh] and «смешная» [funny]. (So the joke on the picture, although funny, is not very good).

What stories fooled you this year? How did you «разыграли» [spoofed] your family, friends and colleagues?

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  1. Kim Costello:

    For several years I’ve been trying to learn Russian. It became obvious to me that many of my friends/family with whom I tried to share my love of learning this language with were not interested. Sometimes they seemed to actually cringe when I would bring up the subject. How sad, since what is so awful about learning in general or learning a new language. So – for April 1st I sent an email to several of these family & friends with the subject: ‘Moving to Russia to work in healthcare and continue language study’. In the body of the email I attached a pic of a calendar with April 1st/April Fools Day circled along with a smiley face and a note from me saying to please notice the date and have a nice one! 😉 I was expecting at least someone to contact me wondering ‘what?!’…’are you really moving so far away?!’. Instead all I got was crickets chirping (do you know what this phrase means? 😉 Perhaps they think, maybe this will get her to stop talking so much about Russian language. Perhaps I should seriously consider the move! Thanks for such a fun post! 🙂

    • yelena:

      @Kim Costello Hi Kim, yes, learning a new language without much support from family and friends can be very difficult and despiriting. I think your joke was funny 🙂 We do have a very friendly community on this blog and on the Facebook page with many native speakers and advanced-level learners eager to answer questions and help out. And you can always ask questions on the blog itself (in the comments).

  2. Bob:

    A little cosmonautic humor for everyone:

    On April 1 of 2000, Nezabisimaya Gazetta announced the resurrection of the Soviet Space Shuttle program with the launch of the newest shuttle, “Baikal”:

    Those who know the meaning of the word Байка will immediately know what’s up 🙂

    • yelena:

      @Bob Bob, you’re in your element! Watch out for our upcoming post about April 12th. And thank you so much for the link! It’s funny how the hint is right in the article itself, where the author is writing about testing the heat shield of the Baikal shuttle 🙂 I’m just curious if the name Mark Wade has any hidden jokes.

  3. Minority:

    I wrote a funny post in my blog 🙂
    It’s about national tradition to go for a hunt of non-existent creature “подснежный хохотунчик мохнатый” [undersnow furry merry fellow]. It’s a creature you search for fun, when you’ll catch it, it will make you laugh to tears, so while you’re rolling on the floor laughing, it will run away. 🙂

    • yelena:

      @Minority I read your post and I vote yours to be the best new joke I’ve heard in the last few years. Besides, at least one person really believed it!

  4. Glenn:

    I have been learning Russian for three months and watching the two videos on youtube by Transparent Russian about Accusative cases, and cases in general were so easy to understand. Do you have any other materials of a similar quality? I am looking for something fresh for my Russian learning.

  5. Stas:

    And I would just add the words прикол, прикалываться и прочие варианты are more of slang and appeard about 25 years ago. Though, quite commmon now…