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Teaching Tips 209

St George's Day

Slaying Dragons

"Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you art crunchy and good with ketchup."
Anon

And here is some material for St George's Day, the parton saint of England on the 23rd.

The first is a general description about the day & the second is a reduced version of the George & the Dragon story. Later there are a couple of ideas for younger learner classes & a couple of links to dragon-related websites.

An appropriate way to use this first text might be to cut up every section & ask students in pairs/small groups to put it in a logical order. Beforehand briefly look at how a text has coherence through the cohesive devices & logical links. Or leave this till after, eliciting the things that helped them decide on the order, collating the class ideas on the board & adding in a few of your own if they are missed out. When completed, the students could compare ideas & then compare with the original version.

Then you could move to the content of the text by asking if there is any information in the text that they knew about beforehand etc...

St George's Day - April 23: History

As with most saints, myth and legend surrounds St George and of how a Roman soldier came to be regarded as the essence of England.

He is most famously known as the brave slayer of the dragon and saviour of the maiden but, although this story exists in a number of different medieval texts and art, it has no historical basis.

There is very little information about the life St George, but it is known that he was not English.

He is thought to have been an early Christian martyr from the area of modern day Turkey, who was executed in Palestine in the third century.

Legends about his valorous deeds as a soldier-saint began in the 6th century and by the 12th century the famous story about his rescuing a king's daughter and slaying a dragon had become widespread.

Some experts think the tale is based on the Greek myth of Perseus rescuing Andromeda from a sea monster.

St George was popularised in England by Crusaders, Christian knights returning from religious wars in the Middle East.

He was supposed to have appeared to the Knights dressed in white robes decorated with a red cross during the 11th century siege of Antioch.

He became the official patron saint of England in 1425 after Henry V's victory at the Battle of Agincourt.

The Red Cross of St George is England's national flag and it also forms part of Britain's Union Jack.

However, the English are not the only people to stake a claim in St George.

In the Middle East, Christians invoke his powers to help exorcise demons.

In many countries St George is associated with fertility and his day marks the very beginning of summer.

In Lithuania he is revered as the guardian of animals and in parts of Spain St George's day is celebrated with feasts and gift giving.

Tintoretti - George fighting the dragon - Tintorreti

This next short text is an excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopaedia & could be used as a basis for storytelling.
1. Elicit - know any stories about dragons?
2. Pre-teach vocab & give key words: dragon, appeased, sheep, failed, children, King's daughter, sacrifice, George, spear, girdle, town, beheaded.
3. Stds then try to work out a coherent story - in pairs?
4. Stds mingle telling each other their stories >> vote on the best.
5. Handout/put on OHP the excerpt - stds compare to see who had the most similar story.
6. The stds could then use their imagination to provide different endings for the story - pairs >> class discussion.
7. Discuss as a class - any similar stories to George & the Dragon in your country/ies?

Alternatively, you could use the text as the basis for a 'dictoglosss' activity. See the Teaching Tip High Speed Dictations.

"At the town of Silene, in Libya, there was a dragon, who was appeased by being fed two sheep a day; when these failed, the townsfolk offered by lot one of their young people. One day the lot fell on the King's daughter, who was led out to the sacrifice, dressed in her wedding gown. George appeared and transfixed the dragon with his spear and then using the Princess's girdle led the bemused dragon into the town, where it was beheaded."
Catholic Encyclopaedia

Dragons are a fun vehicle for younger learner lessons so here are a few ideas:

In 'Drama With Children' by Sarah Philips (OUP) there is a lovely activity about a Dragon Hunt (from the classic Bear Hunt story). As you tell the story the youngsters do the actions & repeat sections & lots of fun is had by all. A bit of space is needed. A very good younger learner book all round which you can buy through:
Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0194372200/
developingteac0b

And Amazon.co.uk
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0194372200/
developingteache

Then there is the Dragon with a cold story. A boiled down version is that the fearsome Dragon is miserable because his cold is spoiling his fun - he can't burn down houses, fight with knights or generally get up to mischief. So he goes to see a wizard who says he can cure him with a special potion (frogs legs, maggots - lots of horrible things) only if he promises to turn over a new leaf & put his fire-breathing to good use. He is so miserable he reluctantly agrees & now instead of people running away from him they smile & greet him, he helps with their fires, cooking & heating & with his huge weight, carries lots of things for them. And they live happily ever after.

The Monster vocabulary idea could be used with a dragon - the dragon can breath the words out. See Past Tips 44

A couple of dragon website links:

http://www.draconian.com/
Your online dragon resource for everything you want to know about dragons: Dragon history, dragon tattoos, dragon art, pictures of dragons, as well as dragon links to find gifts, collectables and figurines for the dragon lover in your life.

http://www.draconian.com/rings/rings.htm
Dragon webrings

Back to the contents

component parts

Component parts

A recent article in the Guardian asks:

Can I successfully learn a language online? Technology has changed the way people learn and access education, particularly languages. But can you successfully master a language only using online tools?

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/21/can-i-learn-a-
language-online

The Guardian Online Learning Challenge

http://www.theguardian.com/education/series/the-case-for-
language-learning

More on this story:
• I'm learning French... to be more like George Orwell
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/21/language-
learning-challenge-french-orwell

• Will I be able to learn Spanish with just my smartphone?
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/22/spanish-
online-language-challenge-duolingo

• Forget French, Russian is the language of love
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/24/russian-
language-of-love-online-challenge

And then there's the page for The Case For Language Learning:
http://www.theguardian.com/education/series/the-case-for-
language-learning

All worth checking out.

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When teaching vocabulary it's sometimes very difficult to get the exact meaning across to the students. This is especially so the more advanced the learners are as the language becomes more diverse & subtle. One way of looking at meaning is called 'Componential Analysis'. This aims to sort out the subtle differences between similar words. It is basically a chart that has the words that you're focusing on on one axis & on the other the different collocates or components that go to make up the meanings. Check out the some blank charts & try to fill them in.
http://developingteachers.com/tips/comp_analysis_1.htm
Then click the link to see the suggested ideas for each.

They are easy to design but do need a bit of thought. Give out the chart & ask your students to fill it in - tell them to use their intuition - does it sound right to them? Then they can compare with your version & discuss possibilities. You do need to be very clear about the possibilities before giving them to your students.

I first came across this in a book called 'The Words You Need' & 'More Words You Need' by Rudzka et al (Longman) - I'm not sure if they are still in print, although you may pick up secondhand copies on Amazon.

Back to the contents

ufo hoax
Fooling around '14

It's April Fool's Day this week so below is a round up of lesson material from the site plus some useful links.

Also from this year, there is an article on USA today citing some jokes to come:

April Fools' pranks not just for laughs

USA TODAY March 29, 2014

In a concerted effort to fight obesity, the nation's major fast-food chains today jointly announced plans to sell items in one size only: puny.

Of course they didn't. That's pure poppycock.

But it's the kind of April Fools' Day prank that -- when believed for even a nano-second -- accomplishes exactly what every marketer wants more of but keeps getting less of in a fragmented world: attention. Aching particularly for social media buzz that just might go viral, major marketers from Frito-Lay to American Eagle have joined-in early on the April Fools' Day fun. But not just for laughs.

"Brands know that generating conversation on social media is critical not just for top-of-mind awareness, but for the cool factor," says Denise Lee Yohn, author of What Great Brands Do. "They do these goofy thing so they're considered relevant."

Among this year's wackiest April Fools' Day PR stunts:

- Cheetos perfume. As if the neon-orange munchies don't feel icky enough in your fingers, imagine wearing them as a fragrance?Frito-Lay has sent out a half-way convincing press release announcing the Chester Cheetah has "entered" the perfume category with Cheetau, "a prestige fragrance that celebrates the irreverent, intriguing and playful nature of the iconic feline."

- American "Beagle" dogwear. The American Eagle Outfitters website features a high profile image of a woman and her beagle in matching, pink outfits. There's a convincing, three-minute video explaining why "American Beagle" is creating clothing for dogs. One faux designer in the video even notes: "American Beagle is going to be huge. I see Milan. I see Paris."

- Bras for cats. The online bra and lingere shopping site, True & Co., has posted a bra-sizing system for cats and kittens. Then, of course, this disclaimer: No actual kittens were involved with our fitting process.

- Chocolate flooring. Now here's a floor you can not only eat off of -- but eat the floor, itself. Chocolate flooring is being peddled by BuildDirect, a technology company for do-it-your-selfers. "You can literally taste the quality," says CEO Jeff Booth.

- Eagle-caught salmon. FreshDirect, the online supplier of fresh meats produce and baked goods, on its site and via social media has announced the freshest-possible product available to customers: Eagle-caught salmon.

- Undie iron. The wrinkles in your hard-to-iron undies can conquered with this tiny, fits-on-the-finger iron from Fruit of the Loom. The USB-powered device, the company says, "is guaranteed to increase underwear positivity by 54%."

- Shakeless Tic Tacs. Iconic Tic Tac mints will roll out in a new shakeless pack, the company says, with a wink. Tic Tac Shakeless packs are custom-engineered to be silent for one purpose: No shake, no share!

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/29/april-fools-april-fools-day-marketing-pranks-cheetos/7008513/

A nice idea to use this, after an intro to the Day & if they have heard of any of the tricks from past years, would be to give the different headings of the tricks & get the students to discuss what they could involve - the language of speculation. They could write a couple of lines about three or four of them - go round & help them out & correct their writings. These could be posted on the walls for all to read & discuss. Then the students could read the article to see how near they were with their ideas. Then on to inventing their own pranks for April fool's Day.

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So YouTube was a competition all along. Google have just announced that it has been a 8-year-long contest and that they are finally starting the process of choosing a winner, which should take a decade to trawl through all the videos. The site will shut down imminently & the winner will be the only video on the site when it relaunches again on 1st April in 2023. So if you want to see any videos on YouTube, you'd better get a move on before they're gone.

http://www.youtube.com/youtube?feature=etp-pd-jke

And then there's also Google Nose:

And here are a couple of more interesting stories for the day:

The world's first mobile phone - in 1938:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2301996/Was-worlds-mobile-
phone-1938-film-shows-woman-talking-wireless-device-time-travel-
family-say-disappointment-conspiracy-theorists.html

Twitter without vowels - you have to pay to use them:
http://blog.twitter.com/2013/03/annncng-twttr.html

Google SCHMICK - Simple Complete House Makeover Internet Conversion kit:
http://google-au.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/renovate-your-house-on-
street-view-with_1.html

The Guardian Goggles:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/video/2013/apr/01/guardian-
goggles-video

The anti-Drone hoodie:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2013/mar/31/anti-drone-
hoodie-big-brother

Virgin launches glass-bottomed plane:
http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog/virgin-atlantic-
launches-worlds-first-ever-glass-bottomed-plane

News report about the growing trend of hipsters in Dalston, east London, keeping penguin as pets:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xb6nbQBtDPg

Boden, the clothes shop, introduced the Marylebone Man-Skirt:
http://www.boden.co.uk/en-GB/blanktemplate.aspx?MasterName=
2&SegmentID=1&Title=Mens%20Marylebone%20Skirt&content=
mens-marylebone-skirt&cm_mmc=email-_-Miscellaneous-_-
LM__BRWT6HB8xog7t4-_-main

Barclaycard PayWag;

Here's a summary of this year's stories to use - students read - don't tell them they are jokes initially - & discuss, then rank them in order of imaginativeness, believability etc:

Some stories in the news on Monday 1st April, 2013 - what do you think?

- Google have announced that YouTube has been a 8-year-long contest and that they are finally starting the process of choosing a winner, which should take a decade to trawl through all the videos. The site will shut down imminently & the winner will be the only video on the site when it relaunches again on 1st April in 2023.

- the Times newspaper reported that Nasa is planning a $2.6 billion robotic mission to catch an asteroid in a giant bag and tow it to the Moon as part of a long-term programme that could one day lead to the permanent settlement of humans in space.

- Twitter announced that if you want to use vowels in your tweets you'll have to pay, otherwise it remains free to use.

- Google also announced 'Google Nose', which provides smells for whatever you type into the search engine – just "bring your nose as close as you can to the screen and press Enter".

- hotels.com claims to be offering the Belgian Suite of Buckingham Palace (an "iconic palace in the heart of London") from 1 April for £10,000 a night.

- Pirate Bay, says that "we hereby announce that we have moved our servers from the evil North Korea to the greatest ...nation in the entire world … The United States of America, ..... yeah!."

- Boden, the clothes shop, introduced the Marylebone Man-Skirt - "Trousers made sense when men rode horses, ploughed fields and trawled for fish. But now that so many of us are sat in front of a computer monitor all day the man-skirt is a smart choice."

- the BBC ran a report on the growing trend of keeping penguins as pets in an area of London.

- Virgin announced that it is introducing a "glass-bottomed plane" for its new route to Scotland.

- the Guardian newspaper announced Guardian Goggles, augmented-reality glasses that allow readers to surround themselves constantly and in real time with the approved Guardian view of your local fishmongers, cinemas and restaurants – and will even censor objectionable opinions in rival newspapers.

- Barclaycard issued a video explaining PayWag, a credit card put into a dog's collar so that they can pay for things in shops.

- Battersea Dogs & Cats Home announced that it has started training its dogs in more unusual "life skills" such as hoovering, gardening and washing up, in a bid to help them find new homes.

- Radio 4's Today programme this morning, reporter Nicola Stanbridge announced that barcodes would replace numbers on the sides of trains, so trainspotters can simply photograph it with a barcode reader on their smartphone.

- the Daily Mail newspaper showed photographic proof of the first mobile phone in 1938.

--------------

So it's April Fool's Day on 1st April, a time for practical jokes in
quite a few Western countries. Nobody really knows where or when
the tradition began, the first time it was mentioned was in
Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales'. On Wikipedia they say 'Many writers
suggest that the restoration of the 1st of January as New Year's
Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the
holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.'
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_Fools%27_Day
On the same page there is a list of well known public practical
jokes,that includes the Guardian's spaghetti harvest supplement.

Here are a couple of our own from past Tips - we've stopped them as we do get credible questions about them!

'Cognitive & affective feedback':
http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/pasttips17.htm

'Stir It Up':
http://developingteachers.com/tips/pasttips33.htm

---------------------

Below is a history of April Fool's Day from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/April_fool%27s_day#History

History

The origins of April Fool's Day are unknown, although various theories have been proposed. It is considered to be related to the festival of the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 21. Prior to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, it was observed as New Year's Day by cultures as far apart as ancient Rome and India. New Year was originally celebrated from March 25 to April 1, before the Gregorian reforms moved it back to January 1. The English first celebrated the day on a widespread basis only as late as the 18th century, though it appears to have reached England probably from Germany in the mid-17th century. Its first known description in English originates with John Aubrey, who noted in 1686: "Fooles holy day. We observe it on ye first of April. And so it is kept in Germany everywhere."

The custom of playing practical jokes on April Fool's Day is also very widespread and of uncertain origins. The victim of a joke is known in English as an April Fool; in Scots as a gowk (cuckoo or fool); and in French as a poisson d'avril (April fish). It has been suggested the custom may have had something to do with the move of the New Year's date, when people who forgot or didn't accept the new date system were given invitations to nonexistent parties, funny gifts, etc. Originally, April Fool's Day jokes concentrated on individuals (sending someone on an absurd errand such as seeking pigeon's milk) but in the 20th century it became common for the media to perpetrate hoaxes on the general population.

Here are some ideas on using the above text:

  • present it as a cloze - take out every nth word & the students fill in the gaps from the contextual clues. Cloze tests were first designed to check the readability of texts & they can be quite hard, so have a go at completing it yourself first. Also there might be more than one right answer. After the task, you could pick up on one or two of the answers & give further practice.
  • for free software so that you can create cloze tests on your computer, ready to print off:

    http://drott.cis.drexel.edu/clozeproze.htm

    This is a very small download that doesn't need installing - just click on it. You need to create a text file with the text you want to use in it eg. text.txt. Then create an empty file eg. text1.txt . Double click on the programme & first enter the interval number - every nth word you want omitting eg. 9, then press 'enter', then write text.txt, then 'enter', then write text1.txt , then 'enter'. Finally go to your text1.txt open it & see the cloze text you have just created, together with the answers - very easy! Keep it all in one folder for ease of use. See below for a cloze I created of the History text. If your students find it difficult, have the answers at hand - jumbled up! - to give out while they are completing the task.
  • present it as a selective cloze - take out all of the verbs or all vocab connected to a certain field. Nice for reviewing an area.
  • after dealing with the text, the students could think of tricks they could play, the most imaginative being the 'winner'.
The origins of April Fool's Day are (1)____________, although various theories have been proposed. It (2)____________ considered to be related to the festival (3)____________ the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 21. (4)____________ to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar (5)____________ 1582, it was observed as New Year's Day (6)____________ cultures as far apart as ancient Rome (7)____________ India. New Year was originally celebrated from (8)____________ 25 to April 1, before the Gregorian reforms moved (9)____________ back to January 1. The English first celebrated (10)____________ day on a widespread basis only as (11)____________ as the 18th century, though it appears (12)____________ have reached England probably from Germany in (13)____________ mid-17th century. Its first known description (14)____________ English originates with John Aubrey, who noted (15)____________ 1686: "Fooles holy day. We observe it on (16)____________ first of April. And so it is (17)____________ in Germany everywhere."

The custom of playing (18)____________ jokes on April Fool's Day is also (19)____________ widespread and of uncertain origins. The victim (20)____________ a joke is known in English as (21)____________ April Fool; in Scots as a gowk ((22)____________ or fool); and in French as a (23)____________ d'avril (April fish). It has been suggested (24)____________ custom may have had something to do (25)____________ the move of the New Year's date, (26)____________ people who forgot or didn't accept the (27)____________ date system were given invitations to nonexistent (28)____________, funny gifts, etc. Originally, April Fool's Day (29)____________ concentrated on individuals (sending someone on an (30)____________ errand such as seeking pigeon's milk) but (31)____________ the 20th century it became common for (32)____________ media to perpetrate hoaxes on the general (33)____________.

ANSWERS

1 unknown
2 is
3 of
4 Prior
5 in
6 by
7 and
8 March
9 it
10 the
11 late
12 to
13 the
14 in
15 in
16 ye
17 kept
18 practical
19 very
20 of
21 an
22 cuckoo
23 poisson
24 the
25 with
26 when
27 new
28 parties
29 jokes
30 absurd
31 in
32 the
33 population

On the same page as the History text there is mention of some notable April Fool's jokes, for example:

Television licence: In another year the Dutch television  news reported that the government had introduced a new way to detect hidden televisions (in many countries in Europe, one must pay a television licence to fund public broadcasting) by simply driving through the streets with a new detector, and that the only way to keep your television from being detected was to wrap it in aluminium foil. Within a few hours all aluminium foil was sold out throughout the country.

A couple of ideas for using this:

  • Give out or dictate the first part up until '...broadcasting) ' & the students work together & complete the text, reading them out & deciding on the most interesting, & then reading the remainder of the original.
  • Use the text as a dictation & then focus on the tenses - past perfect, past simple - & past passive.
  • you could use the text as a running dictation - see:
    http://www.developingteachers.com/tips/pasttips30.htm

------

Here's a lesson plan on April Fool jokes:

Preliminary information

Time: 75 minutes??

Level: Intermediate upwards

Aims:
To give intensive reading practice
To give freer speaking practice
To give freer writing practice
See the texts for possible language aims

Assumptions:
That the stds will be interested in the topic of April Fool's Day.
That the language will not be too difficult to get the overall meaning of the texts.

Anticipated Problems and Solutions:
Some of the vocabulary may be challenging >> dictionaries on hand/ meaning from context tasks.
Structures - depending on level - have a good look at the texts you want to use. You may want to provide tasks focusing on the vocab & language with each text.

Aids: Quotes & Texts below with permission from the Museum of Hoaxes

Procedure

Stage 1 - Intro to the theme of April Fool's Day through the 'fool' quotations
15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std

1. Elicit the vocab: a fool, foolish, to act the fool.
2. Handout the quotes & in pairs read & discuss the ones they like.
3. Feedback - class - elicit their faves & discuss why. Ask if they know any in their own language?
4. Introduce/elicit April Fool's Day - maybe through the day they celebrate in their country to play pranks on each other. Elicit what kind of things are done on a day like this. During this introduce vocab connected to the lexical set: to play a joke on, a prank, to be taken in, gullible, etc....

Stage 2 - Reading
15 mins tch<>stds, std<>std

1. Explain the activity - the stds read one of the past pranks, work on the text, & then get together with other stds to explain their prank & rank them in order of imaginativeness, effectiveness, fun etc..- a jigsaw activity.
2. Handout texts - stds in pairs read & help each other with comprehension - poss. have dictionaries on hand. You could add comprehension & vocab tasks at the end of each text. Be on hand to help out when all else fails.

Stage 3 - Jigsaw speaking activity
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std

1. Put stds into two or three different groups - each having read a different text, depending how many you have in the group. The stds explain their stories & then together they rank them. Also encourage them to write down new vocab they learned from each other.
2. When they have an order either get one std to go to the other group to explain the order & justifications or go back to the original pairs & they compare what they have heard & their group's orderings.
3. Feedback - on both the task achievement & the language, both difficulties & good things that came up.

Stage 4 - Stds design their own April Fool's joke
20 mins tch<>stds, std<>std, tch<>stds

1. Set up the activity, explaining that they are going to design their own & write a report of it for all to read & then put them on the walls to vote on most imaginative.
2. In small groups/pairs stds discuss & write - be on hand if needed.
3. Stick up reports on walls - stds wander round reading each others.
4. Vote on best - could be done informally in a class discussion.

A few quotes about fools & foolish things

However big the fool, there is always a bigger fool to admire him. (Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux)

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools. (Herbert Spencer)

Looking foolish does the spirit good. (John Updike)

Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed. (Mark Twain)

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees. (William Blake)

Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn at no other. (Benjamin Franklin)

A fool must now and then be right by chance. (Cowper)

It is better to be a fool than to be dead. (Stevenson)

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. (Douglas Adams)

The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year. (Mark Twain)

The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools. (Doug Larson)

Some April Fool's Day Hoaxes of All Time

1. The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
In 1957 the respected BBC news show Panorama announced that thanks to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. It accompanied this announcement with footage of Swiss peasants pulling strands of spaghetti down from trees. Huge numbers of viewers were taken in, and many called up wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti trees. To this question, the BBC diplomatically replied that they should "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

Spaghetti harvest

2. San Serriffe
In 1977 the British newspaper The Guardian published a special seven-page supplement in honor of the tenth anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semi-colon-shaped islands. A series of articles affectionately described the geography and culture of this obscure nation. Its two main islands were named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse. Its capital was Bodoni, and its leader was General Pica. The Guardian's phones rang all day as readers sought more information about the idyllic holiday spot. Few noticed that everything about the island was named after printer's terminology. The success of this hoax is widely credited with launching the enthusiasm for April Foolery that then gripped the British tabloids in the following decades.

3. Sidd Finch
In its April 1985 edition, Sports Illustrated published a story about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch and he could reportedly throw a baseball with startling, pinpoint accuracy at 168 mph (65 mph faster than anyone else has ever been able to throw a ball). Surprisingly, Sidd Finch had never even played the game before. Instead, he had mastered the "art of the pitch" in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the "great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa." Mets fans everywhere celebrated at their team's amazing luck at having found such a gifted player, and Sports Illustrated was flooded with requests for more information. But in reality this legendary player only existed in the imagination of the writer of the article, George Plimpton.

4. Hotheaded Naked Ice Borers
In its April 1985 issue Discover Magazine announced that the highly respected wildlife biologist Dr. Aprile Pazzo had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. These fascinating creatures had bony plates on their heads that, fed by numerous blood vessels, could become burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speeds. They used this ability to hunt penguins, melting the ice beneath the penguins and causing them to sink downwards into the resulting slush where the hotheads consumed them. After much research, Dr. Pazzo theorized that the hotheads might have been responsible for the mysterious disappearance of noted Antarctic explorer Philippe Poisson in 1837. "To the ice borers, he would have looked like a penguin," the article quoted her as saying. Discover received more mail in response to this article than they had received for any other article in their history.

5. Alabama Changes the Value of Pi
The April 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter contained an article claiming that the Alabama state legislature had voted to change the value of the mathematical constant pi from 3.14159 to the 'Biblical value' of 3.0. Before long the article had made its way onto the internet, and then it rapidly made its way around the world, forwarded by people in their e-mail. It only became apparent how far the article had spread when the Alabama legislature began receiving hundreds of calls from people protesting the legislation. The original article, which was intended as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution, was written by a physicist named Mark Boslough.

6. The Sydney Iceberg
On April 1, 1978 a barge appeared in Sydney Harbor towing a giant iceberg. Sydneysiders were expecting it. Dick Smith, a local adventurer and millionaire businessman (owner of Dick Smith's Foods), had been loudly promoting his scheme to tow an iceberg from Antarctica for quite some time. Now he had apparently succeeded. He said that he was going to carve the berg into small ice cubes, which he would sell to the public for ten cents each. These well-traveled cubes, fresh from the pure waters of Antarctica, were promised to improve the flavor of any drink they cooled. Slowly the iceberg made its way into the harbor. Local radio stations provided excited blow-by-blow coverage of the scene. Only when the berg was well into the harbor was its secret revealed. It started to rain, and the firefighting foam and shaving cream that the berg was really made of washed away, uncovering the white plastic sheets beneath.

7. The 26-Day Marathon
In 1981 the Daily Mail ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. The Daily Mail reported that Nakajimi was now somewhere out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race. Supposedly various people had spotted him, though they were unable to flag him down. The translation error was attributed to Timothy Bryant, an import director, who said, "I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something like the very long races they have over there."

8. Planetary Alignment Decreases Gravity
In 1976 the British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur that listeners could experience in their very own homes. The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth's own gravity. Moore told his listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation. When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC2 began to receive hundreds of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her eleven friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room.

9. The Left-Handed Whopper
In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."

10. Whistling Carrots
In 2002 the British supermarket chain Tesco published an advertisement in The Sun announcing the successful development of a genetically modified 'whistling carrot.' The ad explained that the carrots had been specially engineered to grow with tapered airholes in their side. When fully cooked, these airholes caused the vegetable to whistle.

11. Guinness Mean Time
In 1998 Guinness issued a press release announcing that it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory's millennium celebration. According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, where the Observatory traditionally counted seconds in "pips," it would now count them in "pint drips." The Financial Times, not realizing that the release was a joke, declared that Guinness was setting a "brash tone for the millennium." When the Financial Times learned that it had fallen for a joke, it printed a curt retraction, stating that the news it had disclosed "was apparently intended as part of an April 1 spoof."

12. Drunk Driving on the Internet
An article by John Dvorak in the April 1994 issue of PC Computing magazine described a bill going through Congress that would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk, or to discuss sexual matters over a public network. The bill was supposedly numbered 040194 (i.e. 04/01/94), and the contact person was listed as Lirpa Sloof (April Fools backwards). The article said that the FBI was going to use the bill to tap the phone line of anyone who "uses or abuses alcohol" while accessing the internet. Passage of the bill was felt to be certain because "Who wants to come out and support drunkenness and computer sex?" The article offered this explanation for the origin of the bill: "The moniker 'Information Highway' itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194... I know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is." The article generated so many outraged phone calls to Congress that Senator Edward Kennedy's office had to release an official denial of the rumor that he was a sponsor of the bill.

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