If you have ever been fooled by a practical joke or a hoax, your first feeling was probably anger – at yourself for being misled and at others for misleading you. But don’t feel bad. Hoaxes have been around for a long time, and very clever and educated people have been deceived.
The word “hoax” derives from “hocus”, part of the Latin phrase “hocus-pocus”, meaning “something that fools your eyes”. It was first used around 1800, but pranks and hoaxes have existed at least since the time of the Ancient Greeks. The god Hermes was supposedly “full of tricks”, and his first prank was directed against his brother, the god Apollo. By the Middle Ages, court jesters were actually expected to play tricks on the king and courtiers to amuse them.
However, most hoaxes are perpetrated on unknowing subjects, many of them educated and rational. For example, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a physician, yet he was tricked into believing in the existence of fairies after being shown photographs of them. Decades later, the girls who had taken the pictures, who were by then old women, admitted that the “fairies” were paper cut-outs.
In 1971, many anthropologists were led to believe that a peaceful Stone Age tribe, the Tasaday, had been discovered in the Philippines. However, in 1986, “tribe members” confessed that they were really farmers; in fact they had been paid by a government official to impersonate cave-dwellers.
The best practical jokes are those where no one is hurt. As long as we stick to this guideline, perhaps a little embarrassment is worth the fun – especially when you know you are in good company.
I. READING COMPREHENSION
ANSWER QUESTIONS 1-2 ACCORDING TO THE INFORMATION GIVEN IN THE TEXT. USE YOUR OWN WORDS.
1) How did the girls deceive Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?
2) Why did anthropologists believe that they had discovered a Stone Age tribe?
ARE THESE STATEMENTS TRUE OR FALSE? JUSTIFY YOUR ANSWERS WITH WORDS OR PHRASES FROM THE TEXT.
3) The word “hoax” was coined by the Ancient Greeks.
4) Practical jokes were first invented during the Middle Ages.
5) Apollo was deceived by a god called Hermes.
6) According to the writer, practical jokes are never a good idea.
II. USE OF ENGLISH
7) Find in the text one synonym for ENJOYMENT (noun)
8) Give one opposite for CLEVER (adjective, line 3)
9) Find in the text the word which has the following definition:
“agricultural workers” (noun)
10) Give an adjective with the same root as FOOLS (verb, line 5)
11) Complete the following conditional sentence.
- If I play a joke on my friends, they will usually laugh. (possible answer)
12) Turn the following sentence into reported speech.
“We found a primitive tribe,” announced the anthropologists.
13) Rewrite the sentence without changing its meaning. Begin as indicated.
Your first feeling was probably anger.
14) Give a question for the underlined words.
The tribe members exposed the hoax in 1986.