Wednesday is April 1, when people in many countries worldwide celebrate the custom of “April Fool’s Day.” On this day, they play pranks on each other, the pranksters gleefully calling those hapless enough to fall for the joke an “April Fool.”
Nobody really knows for certain when, where or why the custom started. We have more certainty over the origins of the word “fool” itself, although some details remain unclear.
The word, which refers to a silly, stupid, or ignorant person, is thought to originate in the early 13th century, deriving from Old French fol, meaning a madman or insane person. The French word, in turn, comes from the Latin follis, meaning a leather bag or a bellows and, by extension later on, an empty-headed person.
Fool also referred to a rogue or a sinful, wicked or lecherous person — around 1300, a “fool woman” meant a prostitute, for example — and also a court jester, a person whose purpose was to entertain the king and court, whether because they were pretending to be buffoonish or whether they actually were like that.
One theory is that the idea of the court jester “fool” derives from folles — the plural form of follis (bellows) — referring to the puffed cheeks of a buffoon.
It is unclear which sense came first, that of the idiot or the jester.
(Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
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