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The International Thread


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I can't answer for all of Europe, but April Fool's Day is definitely celebrated in the UK and Ireland. I don't think that I've participated in any jokes directly since my school days, but there are usually some good stories on TV, in the newspapers, and increasingly on the Internet (if you can separate them from fake news!).

One of the most famous British TV hoaxes is 60 years old this year. In 1957, Panorama, a still-running, hard-hitting, investigative current affairs documentary show looked into the spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. Spaghetti wasn't widely eaten in Britain back then, so most people didn't know where it came from. Check out the spaghetti being picked from the spaghetti trees and laid out to dry in the sun:

We briefly covered the French version of the tradition when I was at school. They call it "Poisson d’Avril" (literally "April Fish"), which originally related to the practice of sticking a fish on the back of "fools" who did not accept the calendar change (having the New Year on January 1st instead of April 1st) imposed by Charles IX.

Of course, in Hazzard they celebrate Sadie Hogg Day on April 1st :).

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Halloween was never that big in the UK when I was growing up. That was partly because we already celebrated Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th. Kids would use papier-mâché heads made on balloons and old clothes stuffed with newspapers to make effigies of Guy Fawkes, which would be dragged around on go-karts while they asked "Penny for the Guy". The effigies would then be burned on a bonfire on November 5th, accompanied by a fireworks display. The public displays still go on, and some replace Guy Fawkes with an effigy of a topical bad guy (e.g. a politician).

Believe it or not, the Irish don't share the British tradition of burning an effigy of a Catholic! Also, buying and selling fireworks for private use is technically illegal here, although it's apparently very easy to drive across the border to Northern Ireland and bring some back. I was up there a year ago, and you don't have to go very far over the border before you see big signs advertising fireworks for sale.

Over the past couple of decades, Halloween has become a much bigger event in both the UK and Ireland. It's very much the Americanized (note that I've Americanized the spelling of Americanised!) version of the celebrations with pumpkins and trick or treat, neither of which figured in the celebrations when I was young, even though they showed "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on TV :).

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LOL your Americanized  joke was hillarious. I never really thought of this but the autocorrect thing for spelling changed it to a Z just now when I spelled it with an S. How does that work over there? If the website originated in America does it autocorrect that way? If the autocorrect originated in the UK would it tell me that I spelled "color" wrong and add the U?

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20 minutes ago, RogerDuke said:

Does that mean that it is possible for an individual user here on the HN to turn it off? 

Autocorrect is either built into your browser or your operating system (or both). It is nothing to do with HNet. I'm sure that you could turn it off if you wanted to.

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On ‎10‎/‎29‎/‎2017 at 5:53 AM, HossC said:

I've just found out that Americans have the Irish to thank for jack-o'-lanterns. The faces were originally carved into hollowed-out turnips, but when the Irish got to America, they found a larger vegetable to use - the pumpkin.

I thought you might like this one, esp. being from my homeland!


The Jack O Lantern Legend
It's unlikely that pumpkins grew in Celtic heartlands, so our ancestors probably made pumpkins by hollowing out turnips and placing a candle inside. There is an enduring Irish story based on the Jack O Lantern. Mischievously, Jack tricks the Devil into climbing up an apple tree, with a promise of cider. Then, Jack carved the sign of the cross, into the trunk of the tree. This infuriated the devil, as he dared not climb back down the tree and touch the cross.
  Years later Jack dies and because of his life of mischief, drunkenness and worse, there is no chance of him going to heaven. Reluctantly, Jack heads for Hell, but the Devil remembers his prank of the cross on the apple tree and consequently refuses Jack entry into Hell. Thus, Jack is left to roam the Netherworld, and the only time of the year when he can become visible, is at Halloween, hence  Jack O' Lantern! 
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That's quite a wide-ranging question, Roger. When the BBC did a show about the 100 greatest Britons in 2002, the top 10 looked like this:

  1. Sir Winston Churchill
  2. Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  3. Diana, Princess of Wales
  4. Charles Darwin
  5. William Shakespeare
  6. Sir Isaac Newton
  7. Elizabeth I
  8. John Lennon
  9. Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
  10. Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell certainly wouldn't be on any such list in Ireland, but that's another story!

I notice that a similar US show in 2005 put Ronald Reagan at #1, with George Washington at #4 (Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. were #2 and #3 respectively). That list also had Albert Einstein at #14, even though he didn't become American until he was around 60-years-old, and Lance Armstrong at #20 (how times change!).

If we look at the figures on the England/Wales banknotes (Scotland and Northern Ireland issue their own notes), the current set is:

£5 Sir Winston Churchill
£10 Jane Austen/Charles Darwin (the Jane Austen notes were only introduced this year, and will gradually replace the Charles Darwin notes)
£20 Adam Smith
£50 Matthew Boulton and James Watt

Previous notes have featured these people:

£1 Isaac Newton
£5 Elizabeth Fry
£5 George Stephenson
£5 Duke of Wellington
£10 Charles Dickens
£10 Florence Nightingale
£20 Sir Edward Elgar
£20 Michael Faraday
£20 William Shakespeare
£50 Sir John Houblon
£50 Sir Christopher Wren

The history of Ireland is more complicated, and, like your own, involves a time when it was ruled by the United Kingdom. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising are commemorated in many places, such as the name of my nearest railroad station.

Ireland now uses Euro banknotes which only feature architectural features, but the last set of Irish banknotes featured these people:

£5 Catherine McAuley
£10 James Joyce
£20 Daniel O'Connell
£50 Douglas Hyde
£100 Charles Stewart Parnell

I'd be interested to hear lists of celebrated historical figures from other countries.

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Thanks Hoss. I wasn't expecting that much information but I sure appreciate it. I guess that means that you really don't have someone who is viewed as a Washington figure. I also assume you don't have an equivalent to our Founding Fathers. If you asked an American on the street to name our Founding Fathers most of them could name several. Could a random person walking in London name several kings and queens from hundreds of years ago who helped to form modern England? Are they revered there like our Founding Fathers are here? Your lists weren't exactly loaded with them.

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Others may feel differently, but I don't think the UK has a single person or group that's analogous to the Founding Fathers. The original basis for the British constitution is the Magna Carta, which was agreed by King John and signed back in 1215. It's been revised since, but parts of the Magna Carta made it into the United States Constitution.

If you stopped people in the street, I'm sure they'd be able to name plenty of kings and queens. Most school children learn about Henry VIII and his six wives (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived). Queen Victoria's reign lasted for over 60 years, and included a time when the British Empire expanded to include India and parts of Africa, so her influence was felt around the world. What you have to remember about kings and queens is that they're hereditary, i.e. not elected, so their influence on the country has been decreasing for a few hundred years. Queen Elizabeth II could technically veto new laws, but her role is largely ceremonial. She does, however, represent the country as a non-political figurehead.

In more recent years, the younger royals have taken on more global causes, e.g. Princess Diana led a campaign against land mines, and Prince Harry has been the leading figure behind the Invictus Games.

I don't know how many of the names on my lists are familiar to you (I had to look up two or three of the people on the banknotes), but they include a good selection of architects, scientists and literary figures who've shaped the country. I guess Benjamin Franklin fulfills that role within your Founding Fathers.

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I remember when I was a young man I used to think that it was silly to still have royalty in England but now that I'm older I have done a complete reversal of opinion. I admire folks in the UK for keeping the tradition alive. It's funny how your opinions evolve in a lifetime. I understand there are still folks over there who think royalty should be done away with but they are in the minority.....am I correct in assuming?

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6 hours ago, Hobie Harkins said:

I think so. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Queen dies.....

As you can imagine, that's been debated for years. The last poll I can find seems to indicate that just over 70% of the UK want to keep the Queen. Prince Charles is heir to the throne, but he's now 68, so he may let the job go to one of his children (if there isn't a referendum). Charles and Camilla visited here earlier in the year, and while I got to shake their hands, I didn't get a chance to ask about his plans for the future :).

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I didn't know that Charles could pass it up and let it go to one of his sons. It sounds like a good idea since I suspect they are more popular than him. Hoss, would you like to see him pass the throne to a son? Would he have the choice of which one? That's pretty awesome that you got to meet him. Did you have to wait in line long?

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oh, I forgot to tell you. The queen photo bombed somebody over here that was on vacation over there. They were taking a pic somewhere and she just happened to be standing behind them ( the ones getting their pic took) and she was kind of peeking out at them and it looked funny. Normally you would be mad, getting photo bombed,  but something like that, with the Queen....!! That's something to brag about!

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15 hours ago, RogerDuke said:

That's pretty awesome that you got to meet him. Did you have to wait in line long?

"Meet" might be an exaggeration. I think I only got there half an hour early, but got lucky with the site I picked. With about 10 minutes to go, the stewards unexpectedly opened a barrier which took us to the edge of the area they were going to be walking around. After that it was just a case of sticking out your arm and hoping they'd shake your hand when the time came.


After the walkabout, Charles got to try his hand at hurling with one of our local champions who's known as King Henry. The newspapers liked that in their captions.

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