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You may have heard earlier this week that car maker Volkswagen is changing its name to Voltswagen to show a commitment to an all-electric vehicle future.

If that leaves you shaking your head at the foolishness of it all — as some of the reactions on social media attest — read the date at the top of this page.

Yes, it's April 1—April Fools' Day. Volkswagen just got a jump on the fun.

April Fools' Day is an old tradition, celebrated in many countries across the globe. Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" has a haughty rooster tricked by a sly fox on the day as part of "The Nun's Priest's Tale."

And that was in 1392.

Iranians began to celebrate the day even earlier. There is a traditions of pranks and jokes on April 1 or April 2 among the Persians dating back to 536 B.C.

The French call it April Fish Day, and for the Scots, it's Hunt the Gowk Day. Whatever the name, the idea is the same. Play pranks and jokes and see who falls for them.

There have been many famous pranks played on the public at large on April Fools' Day. One of the best known happened in 1998, when the fast-food chain Burger King publicized a special version of their signature sandwich the Whopper designed for left-handed people. Customers poured into the store for the new sandwich. Some disgruntled traditionalists very specifically explained that they wanted the right-handed Whopper, not the new version.

In 1996, Taco Bell announced it had purchased the Liberty Bell and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell." Even the White House got in on that joke, with the president's press secretary saying the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

In 1980, the BBC caused a national uproar when it reported that London's iconic Big Ben would lose its hand and numbers and go digital.

Most pranks, though, are more localized. And most are done in good humor.

So if you find yourself the victim today, take it with good cheer. And you can always get them back next year.

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