What's the funniest April Fools joke you've ever seen? In 1977 the British newspaper the Guardian’s pulled off its most successful April Fools' joke ever - the newly independent semicolon shaped tropical Republic of San Serriffe. San Serriffe is considered one of the most successful and famous of recent hoaxes and one of the best April Fools' jokes yet.
Today the islands of San Seffiffe have been long unfairly neglected by travelers - even though the tropical islands offer something for everyone with their rich culture, economists, botanists, tropical climate, banana-powered cars, and more.
The Republic of San Serriffe
San Serriffe was part of a 7-page hoax in the newspaper in 1977 and was published in the style of contemporary reviews of foreign countries.
The Guardian described the tiny tropical republic of San Serriffe as a “small archipelago, its main islands grouped roughly in the shape of a semicolon, in the Indian Ocean.” The two main islands were Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse while the indigenous islanders were called flongs. The republic was ruled over by a dictator called General M J Pica.
Article commemorated the tenth anniversary of the island's independence (most African nations and others around the world gained independence in the 1960s). This was a time when new countries were becoming independent all the time.
- Independence: In 1967
The special report when into elaborate descriptions of the nation - including that it was a tourist destination and had a developing economy.
At first, the island was to be in the Atlantic Ocean near the Canary Islands. But a disastrous collision of two Boeing 747s there a few days before they intended to publish it convinced them to move it into the Indian Ocean near Seychelles.
The authors also added another hoax to their make-believe island that it was a moving island. A combination of coastal erosion on one side of the island coupled with the deposition on the other was causing the island to move towards Sri Lanka. It was to eventually collide with it and was moving at around 1 mile a year.
One can download a PDF of the first full front page of San Serriffe special report.
Part of the reason why San Serriffe was so successful was that the advertisers were also complicit in the hoax. Kodak, e.g., ran a competition asking for amateur photographers' pictures of the semi-colon-shaped country. Crucially, entrants were required to call Kodak “before noon today”.
Pun Names and Jokes
Most of its place names and characters were puns and plays on words related to printing. For example "sans-serif" and names of common fonts).
- Sans-Serif: The Name of The Country - Named After A Font
- Bodoni: The Capital - Named After A Variety of Typeface
- Flong: The Indigenous Islanders - Named After A Mould For Making Type
- Pica: The Dictator of the Republic - Named After A Unit of Measurement in Type
But if readers were not familiar with the technical terms in printing there were plenty of other jokes doted throughout the article. For example, the introduction to the article celebrated the fact that parliamentary democracy had been “in part successful”.
There were was a caption for one photo that described “the many beaches from which terrorism has been virtually eliminated”.
The Guardian continued their hoax in subsequent years. It was reused for similar hoaxes in 1978, 1980, and 1999. They even received a "letter" from the San Serriffe Liberation Front (SSLF). In the letter, the rebels stated just how furious they were at the pro-government slant of the publication.
Visiting San Serriffe
Today there is even a wikitravel page devoted to the San Serriffe and they have a good deal of useful information about visiting the island. It should also be noted that Canadians are banned from the islands while American tourists are in the habit of posing as Canadians.
- Visa: Visitors Can Normally Obtain a Free Visa On Arrival For 30 Days With Low Introductory Interest Rates and No Annual Fee
It should be noted that MasterCards are forbidden on the island, punishable by death by donqtuque. One can get to the island by plane, by boat, by shipwreck, and by tsunami - with tsunami being the cheapest way onto the islands.
- Tsunami: The Cheapest Way Onto The Island
There are two main types of accommodation on the islands.
- Hammocks: There is a Vast Assortment of Palm Trees To Swing A Hammock From
- Government-Run Accommodation: Stay In Private Basement Rooms Complete with Full Board, 24-Hour Security, A Private Trainer, and Plenty of Opportunities for Reflection
The myths and legends that sailors used to believe themselves could have been enough for an April Fool's joke. But if one is in London, don't feed the pigeons at Trafalgar Square - that's a £500 ($680) fine - no April Fools'!