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Five famous April Fools' pranks played on the French public

The French media love a good April Fool or ‘Poisson d’Avril’ - here are five of the best

Important announcement: The Eiffel Tower will move to Disneyland…April Fool! Pic: Melinda Nagy / Shutterstock

These days maybe nothing would surprise us and it can be hard to tell fact from fiction. 

But on one day of the year you should be especially aware of having your leg pulled (don’t translate that phrase literally into French or you’ll get bemused looks). 

April 1 is Poisson d’Avril (April Fish) in France, the equivalent of April’s Fools' Day. 

The normal prank is to stick a paper fish on someone’s back and laugh at them but the media often takes things one stage further. 

Here are five of the best public April Fish jokes.  

Le Parisien’s edition of 1st April 1986 told readers that the Eiffel Tower had been sold to Walt Disney Productions. 

It was to be dismantled and re-erected on the site of the future Disneyland Paris at Marne-la-Vallée. 

The move was to make way for a new sports stadium.

Read more: Gustave Eiffel: Revealing the man behind the Eiffel tower

2. Astérix’s village unearthed

On 1st April 1993, the British newspaper The Independent announced “archaeologists have discovered what they think is the 3,000-year-old home of the French cartoon hero, Astérix. 

“The buried remains of a large and heavily defended Iron Age settlement at the precise Breton spot where Astérix’s creator, René Goscinny, located his hero’s well-fortified home village, have been found by an Anglo-French team.” 

Oxford and Brest University professors testified that they had found coins depicting wild boar (Obélix’s favourite meal) and a collection of menhirs.

Read more: Europe loves Asterix but can he conquer the US?

3. The Earth slowed down by wind turbines 

The newsreader David Pujadas is one of the best known and most trusted faces on French television. 

On 1st April 2009, during the 20:00 news on France 2 he explained that scientists had discovered that there were so many wind turbines on the Earth that they were slowing down its normal rotation. 

As a result, days would lengthen from 24 to 25 hours.

Read more: How do I find out where new wind turbines are planned in France?

4. Homer Simpson announces the trains

For 1st April 2009, the French railway company SNCF replaced its usual announcer with Philippe Peythieu, who voices Homer Simpson in French. 

He advised passengers that “The train from Alaska is expected to arrive on the Milky Way” and “ Beware of bears on the edge of the platform”. 

Read more: Sarkozy and Carla appear in Simpsons

5. Merry Metro stations 

The Paris transport people often have fun the night before April Fool’s Day by changing station names on platforms. 

The jokes work better in French but, for example, Opéra, was turned into its anagram, Apéro – the French tradition of the aperitif that thirsty commuters were looking forward to at the end of the day - and “Anvers” was turned upside down because it sounds like “envers” (reversed).

Read more: Map: our tour of France by local apéritif

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