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The Etiquette Guy

Appearing weekly in the Telegraph Journal

Fair gaming on April Fool's Day

The etiquette guy
Published Saturday March 28, 2009

A reader recently wrote:

Dear Jay,

A friend and I recently had a disagreement about the rules for one of my favourite spring traditions, April Fool's Day. I've always believed that the game included a certain level of sportsmanship and fair play. The point, in my opinion, is to test the alertness or gullibility of the victim, and the fooler should graciously admit defeat if the victim calls "April fool." My antagonist shared no such sense of sportsmanship, and thought it was OK to continue to insist on the deception after being "caught." To me, it doesn't seem fair to claim that you have fooled the victim by continuing to lie after he guessed the plot. That's just taking unfair advantage of his trust. Am I just a wuss who was raised on sissy games where the losers honorably admitted their losses, instead of games where you didn't lose as long as you were able to keep playing dirty?

Puzzled Prankster

Dear P.P.,

Some people understand practical jokes, deliver them well and accept them with grace. Some people don't and likely never will. Here you have illustrated a prime example of learning not to repeat something a second time which didn't work well for you the first. However, it is hardly a reason to terminate a friendship. As a point of etiquette, April Fool's Day jokes should really all be played by noon.

- Jay

For this week's column, I decided to ferret out a couple of little known facts about April 1 and relate them to etiquette. The first one jumped off the page at me. On April 1, 1891, the Wrigley company was founded in Chicago. The windy city has had more than its fair share of press lately. But the far-reaching effects of chewing gum permeate our entire society. Most of us have chewed gum at some time in our lives. Today, people chew gum as they have for decades. But chewing gum does have its drawbacks.

I have never liked chatting with someone who was snapping their gum, blowing bubbles or nervously chewing the little piece of elastic-like stuff that had a good chance of winding up on the bottom of a chair. Have you ever bought a chair with gum stuck to its underside?

Gum chewing does, however, have its positive dental benefits. It has saved many garlic eaters some embarrassing moments and does soothe many peoples' nerves. But I think it is one of those personal habits that are best practised at home, in the privacy of one's office or on a contemplative stroll. Watching people chew gum, remove gum from their mouths and stick it under chairs and tables at public restaurants or even wrap it in a piece of paper and then wonder where to put it other than the tabletop has no appeal.

My tip to gum chewers is to understand that some people find it offensive; it feels better to you than it looks to others; and it would be on the short list of things not to do during a job interview or while speaking on the phone. There really is nothing wrong with chewing gum in and of itself. It is best, however, not to make any sounds associated with chewing or imparting the used piece on an unsuspecting piece of furniture or a sidewalk, for that matter.

My second little known fact is that Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame player Ken Reardon turns 88 on April 1. During his tenure with Montreal, the team won five Stanley Cup titles, which brings me to my second etiquette discussion.

I was having a chat with a friend of mine the other day. He spent much of his youth as an avid hockey player and today enjoys coaching youngsters on the ice here in St. Andrews. We were speaking about an upcoming project of mine and oddly enough the subject of etiquette came up. Specifically we spoke about how broad a topic it is and that it extends well into the world of sports and into hockey in particular.

I was listening to the radio the other day and the commentator was talking about how important fighting is in hockey. The speaker went on to explain some of the intricacies of this aspect of the sport. I had no idea that there was an actual code of ethics surrounding fighting on the ice during a hockey game. I've seen plenty of hockey games and I've seen fights which have emptied benches and have ended in serious injury, fines and even potential jail time.

My friend and I picked up this conversation where it had ended on the radio. He explained how strict the rules are and how important it is to all of the players to adhere to these rules.

This crystallized for me the amazing inclusiveness etiquette has in so many areas of our lives. It shows how these codes of conduct matter as much to an athlete engaged in a healthy brawl as they do to a lady at a tea party. Break the rules and it will be noticed.

And let's not forget in Canadian history, Nunavut officially became the largest and newest territory in Canada on April 1, 1999. Happy 10th birthday!

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