The first of April, fools and innocence

Enlace para español/Click here for Spanish

Dear reader,

It’s not a holiday, school kids don’t get the day off, stores don’t hold sales—but April First is widely loved.

April Fool’s Day is a day for telling false tales with a straight face—and, if the victim falls for it, crowing “April Fool!” aFree iPad visual!t your gullible listener. (French “Poisson d’Avril!” and Italian “Pesce d’aprile!¨ both mean “April fish”).

April Fool jokes can be in print too; many newspapers traditionally added a false front page over the real one, with absurd, fake news. A few papers still do it.

This US election campaign will be tough on April Fool pranksters—who can top the absurdity of the actual, real news?

In the Spanish-speaking world, though US influence has spread “El Día de los Tontos” somewhat, the real equivalent is Dec. 28, Día de los Santos Inocentes.

This light-hearted festival has a dreadful origin: the Biblical massacre of infants ordered by King Herod, who hoped the Baby Jesus would be among those slain. Christianity’s Feast of the Holy Innocents commemorates these martyrs.

From those tragic innocents to the innocent victims of the creative lies of Dec. 28 is quite a jump. But that’s how popular culture adapted and transformed that ancient religious commemoration.

When someone falls for a Dec. 28 gag, the traditional gloat is “Que la inocencia te valga” (May your innocence do you good).

The tall tale can be called a “joke” (Span. chiste, broma), “practical joke” or “prank” (broma pesada). If it’s elaborately constructed, uses print or other media, and is meant to snare a large number of people, it’s a “hoax.” In Spanish, Dec. 28 jokes in particular are often called inocentadas, playing off the day’s name.

On a serious note, did you hear about the Trump-Sanders “national unity ticket”? And that Apple is giving away free iPads to commemorate Steve Jobs’s birthday? ¡Que la inocencia te valga!

Buenas palabras/Good words!


An earlier version of this essay originally appeared in the Mar. 25-31, 2015 edition of La Prensa Latina (Memphis, Tennessee) as number 174 in the weekly bilingual column, “Misterios y Engimas de la Traducción/Mysteries and Enigmas of Translation”.  Pablo Julián Davis, PhD, CT is an ATA (Aamerican Translators Association) Certified Translator, Engl>Span; a Tennessee State Courts Certified Interpreter, Engl<>Span; and an innovative trainer in the fields of translation, interpreting, and intercultural competency, with over 25 years experience. He holds the doctorate in Latin American History from The Johns Hopkins University, and is a Juris Doctor Candidate at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, University of Memphis (May 2017).

About Pablo Julián Davis
Pablo J. Davis is an attorney, historian, and translator. Many of the posts or essays here began as entries in the newspaper column “MIsterios y Enigmas de la Traducción/Mysteries & Enigmas of Translation” (published weekly in La Prensa Latina,, since July 2012).

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