OK, the venerable “Your shoelaces are untied” schtick is the oldest April Fool’s gag of all time, but it’s amazing how often it still works.
If you’re anything like me, you hate that kind of juvenile crap. There’s something on your shirt. What’s that behind you? You dropped something — not!
But one day a year, we’re forced to put up with it. The great thing about this year (especially great if you’re a teacher) is that the infamous April 1 falls on a Sunday and will hopefully be forgotten by tomorrow.
On the topic of hoaxes and gags not necessarily confined to April Fool’s, I am a student of urban legends, those stories that happened to a FOAF (Friend of a Friend) and involve cats in microwaves, alligators in the sewer, or foreign substances in pizza or fast food.
One of my favorites is that Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC because the main ingredient in its famous recipe is no longer poultry, but some genetically altered meat substance that only looks and tastes like chicken. Totally untrue, by the way. (”Kentucky Fried Rat” is another urban legend — the title of which says it all — about the chain.)
A great browsing book, pictured above, is Jan Harold Brunvand’s “Encyclopedia of Urban Legends,” which lists — in a scholarly but enjoyable way — scads of urban legends, cross-referenced for easy access. There are listings and descriptions for military myths, computerized hoaxes and chain letters. All are fascinating and fun.
I keep hoping Brunvand will update the encyclopedia to include more from the world of Internet hoaxes, but a visit to his website shows him to be mostly retired these days, so readers must hope that somebody equally as talented and dedicated will continue his work.
Another great hoax debunker is snopes.com, the first place I go when a well-intentioned friend sends along an email warning or chain letter. Most of the time, I find out that the concern or cause is bogus and ship along the link to prove it. Good stuff, great fun.