Did you believe all the tall tales? More fool you

Today being the day after April Fool's Day, it now seems safe to report that Scotland really may be the launch pad for the space tourists of tomorrow; that police in Cornwall really did question a 13-year-old schoolboy on suspicion of common assault after he threw a marshmallow at a fellow pupil; and that, much to the chagrin of local residents, there really is a bakery in the Bedfordshire village of Henlow called "Nice Baps". Readers familiar with the newspaper tradition of inserting an outrageous, fake story into the 1 April edition could be forgiven for having believed otherwise.

And April Fool's Day is popular beyond the world of media. Big brands such as Ikea and Virgin compete to create the silliest ruses as an easy marketing opportunity.

Often, the truth is far funnier than our annual comic fantasies, but still we indulge ourselves in the hope of gulling the public for half a day or even half a minute. Hence yesterday's tall tale in The Sun of gorillas at Port Lympne wild animal park being given iPads. Metro, meanwhile, claimed the remains of what look like a unicorn had been excavated during routine maintenance at the Tower of London.

The BBC, keen not to be left out of the hilarity, always produces a straight-faced spoof report for Radio 4's Today: this year, the technophobic John Humphrys tantalised listeners with the prospect of "3D radio". Over on Radio 2, Rob Brydon spent a gruelling two-and-a-half hours imitating regular host Ken Bruce. Bruce's more credulous fans were unimpressed, some taking to the message boards to speculate on whether the DJ was drunk.

The royal wedding proved a rich comic seam, with the Daily Mail mocking up pictures of Kate Middleton shopping for baby clothes and the Telegraph stumbling across a secret memo from Labour apparatchiks, urging party members to hold trifle-fuelled street parties in honour of Ed Miliband's nuptials in May.

The Guardian, traditionally sceptical of monarchy, published an editorial throwing its weight behind the young Prince and his bride-to-be and pledging "full-throated support" for "the magic and wonder of royalty".

The Independent conjured up what seemed an innocent sporting story. Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, wrote football editor, Glenn Moore, had agreed to be "sold" to the Spanish national team for €160m, as part of a bid to "draw the [Portuguese] nation back from the brink of economic collapse".

It was plausible enough to convince at least one genuine professional footballer. QPR's Wayne Routledge tweeted incredulously: "Can someone talk me thru what I'm seeing? Ronaldo sold to Spain for 160mill?? Does that mean he can jus change country and play for Spain?"

Not every nation recognises 1 April as a day for practical jokery – a tradition that in Britain stretches back to the Middle Ages – and some Portuguese readers were most definitely not amused.

The practice of newspaper 1 April fun, however, tends to be traced to The Guardian's publication, on 1 April 1977, of a seven-page supplement about San Serriffe, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean which featured a pair of semi-colon shaped islands named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse.

Best of the spoofs

* Ryanair announced it would be offering seats on "child-free" flights from October. Sadly, this fabulous idea is a fabrication.

* The Sun reported keepers at Port Lympne wild animal park were giving iPads to gorillas to help them stay alert.

* Sir Richard Branson revealed Virgin had bought Pluto and would seek to have its planetary status restored.

* Ikea advertised its new "Hundstol" high chair for dogs, to allow pets to join their owners at the dinner table.

* Rob Brydon impersonated Ken Bruce for the duration of Bruce's Radio 2 show, leading some listeners to wonder if Bruce was perhaps drunk.

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