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April Fool’s in France + French Laughter Vocabulary

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Oct 23, 2020

A “poisson d’avril” is a joke made on April 1st. For April Fool’s in France, children try to stick a fish picture on their friends’ back. When the joke is discovered, they shout “poisson d’avril !”. Learn about this French tradition, with many examples, and study the laughter related French Vocabulary.

1 – April Fool’s in France = Poisson d’Avril!

The typical French April Fool’s prank consist of discreetly attaching a paper fish to the back of your unknowing victim… But all kinds of pranks are possible on that day: when the prank is revealed, we shout: “poisson d’avril”!!!

Where this habit comes from is not certain. There are several theories (read more here), but why the symbolic of the fish remains pretty much a mystery.

2 – French Laughter Vocabulary

For a taste of French jokes, follow this link to French jokes + English translation and audio recordings on French Today.

A – French Vocabulary for Tricks, Pranks, Practical Jokes

We have a series of French words for tricks, pranks and practical Jokes

  1. Une farce : a practical joke, a prank, a trick
    Je vais lui faire une farce : I’m going to play to trick on him
  2. Une blague : a joke (physical or verbal)
    J’adore faire des blagues: I love pranks.
  3. Un tour: a trick
    Il a plus d’un tour dans son sac: he has more than one trick up his sleeves

B – French Vocabulary for Verbal Jokes

For verbal jokes, the French vocabulary we use differs a bit:

  1. Une plaisanterie : a joke (verbal, a bit old-fashioned)
  2. Une histoire drôle : a joke, a funny story (only verbal)
  3. Un jeu de mot : a pun
  4. Une blague : a joke
  5. Une blague grivoise : a dirty joke
  6. Une blague douteuse : a bad joke (could also mean a borderline dirty joke or poor taste)
  7. Une blague pourrie : a very bad joke (colloquial)

Note the expression “sans blague” which means “no way… no kidding!”
Tu as gagné au loto ? Sans blague! You won the lottery? No kidding!

C – How To Say “To Joke” In French

The verb is important because it will set the context of the joke:

  1. if you use “faire”, then it’s an action and it’s likely you’re talking about a prank
    Faire une farce, faire une blague, faire une plaisanterie : to make a prank
    Yet we say “faire un jeu de mot”: to make a pun…
  2. if you use “dire” or “raconter”, then it’s verbal.
    Dire une blague, dire une histoire drôle: to tell/crack a joke

Watch out for “raconter des histoires” which could be an idiom meaning to lie, making up stories.
Arrête de raconter des histoires et dis-moi la vérité! Stop making up nonsense and tell me the truth!

We also have a series of specific verbs to say to joke, kid around:

  1. Blaguer : to joke
    Mais non !! Je blague – No! I’m pulling your leg
  2. Plaisanter : to joke
    Ce n’est pas méchant: il plaisante, c’est tout! It’s not mean, he’s only kidding.
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3 – Other Laugher Related French Vocabulary

  1. Drôle, amusant, comique, poilant/marrant/rigolo (slang), cocasse (very formal) : funny
  2. Hilarant : extremely funny
  3. Sourire : to smile
  4. Le sourire : smile
  5. Rire : to laugh
  6. Le rire : laugher
  7. Rigoler : to laugh (colloquial)
  8. La rigolade : laughter (colloquial)
  9. Un fou rire : when you cannot stop laughing
  10. Hurler de rire : to laugh really hard and loud (!! nothing to do with ‘to hurl’)
  11. Éclater de rire : to burst in laughter, to start laughing really hard
  12. Pleurer de rire : to cry from laughter
  13. Se taper une barre (de rire)/des barres de rire : to laugh till it hurts (a new expressions used by the younger crowd nowadays)
  14. Je suis mort(e) de rire : dead laughing = MDR
  15. Je suis pété(e) de rire : broken in two from laughter (also j’ai pété de rire: I farted from laughing) = PTR
  16. MDR, PTR = LOL
joke in french
My husband Olivier and daughter Leyla cracking up laughing

4 – April Fool’s French Joke 2017

Grown ups like to make jokes as well, announce fake info : it’s very common that jokes are also made by the media, radio, TV etc…

See what the RATP (the company managing the Paris Subway) did in 2017: they made puns with Paris métro station names! They glued some stickers around the names on the stations themselves.

april fool in france

I’ll translate and explain them for you: all these are French puns, so the name of the station sounds more or like another French word and together makes a fun sentence.

  1. Auber = Tartine au beurre salé = toast with salted butter
  2. Simplon = du simple au double = an expression meaning the cost for example was doubled “from simple to double”
  3. Jules Joffrin = À mon Jules, j’offre un baiser = to my boyfriend, I give a kiss
  4. Bastille = Une pastille pour la gorge ? = a lozenge for the throat?
  5. Jaurès = Si j’aurais su j’aurais pas venu = famous quote from the movie “La Guerre des Boutons” and a mistake French kids would frequently make with French hypothesis using “si”/ if. It should be “si j’avais su je ne serais pas venu” – If I had known I wouldn’t have come.(
  6. Iéna = quand (il n’) y en a plus, il y en a encore = when there is no more there is some left – a famous French saying
  7. Laumiere = qui a éteint la lumière = who turned off the light?
  8. Gentilly = de la chantilly sur tes fraises = some whipped cream on your strawberries?
  9. Goncourt = numéro un au concourt de beauté = Beauty contest first prize
  10. Jussieu = J’y suis, j’y reste = I’m there and I’m staying
  11. Passy = (ne) reste pas si près du bord = don’t stay so close to the edge

Why are some words omitted such as the “il n'” or the “ne” – that’s modern French!

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5 – Here is My 2014’s French April  Fool’s Joke

I sent this in my newsletter in 2014.

BREAKING NEWS! President François Hollande is to change his last name. “I’ve had enough of the confusion created by my last name” said France’s president to a TF1 reporter. The president has not yet disclosed his chosen last name, but rumor has it that he may choose “de France”, since “de Gaulle” has already been used…

Brought to comment on this exceptional measure, Marie Le Pen cried out “Poisson d’avril !!!”

6 – Here is My 2012’s French April Fool’s Joke

Yesterday, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced an ambitious plan for mitigating the social health deficit: to sell the Parisian monuments, which presently belong to the city of Paris.
Many foreign powers have already made offers totalling several billion Euros. It seems that China is willing to pay 3 billion Euros for the Eiffel Tower alone.

The other monuments concerned are the Arc de Triomphe, the Petit Palais, the Sorbonne, the Paris Bourse, the Invalides, Grand Palais … and the bridges of the Seine.

The President said that Notre Dame cathedral as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart would be excluded from the negotiations because of their religious character.

“It is out of the question to move these monuments symbolic of the city of Paris, only to cede their title and their visa operation to make a profit that could solve the French economic crisis. “

Brought to comment on this exceptional measure, Carla Bruni cried out “Long live the April fools. “

Here is an hilarious “poisson d’avril” video of a fish pranking a cat ! And it comes with English subtitles :-) Note the song at the end which is a very famous children song.

7 – French April Fool’s Video

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