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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Naming rights on sale for New York's Central Park, Google changing its name, Starbucks launching giant-sized coffee cups, the Boston Marathon changing its qualifying standards. It must be April Fools' Day.
In keeping with tradition, newspapers and websites around the globe played various tricks on their readers on Thursday, ranging from the faintly believable to the absurd.
Internet search engine Google joined the fun by saying it was launching "Translate for Animals," a new animal translation service, and renaming itself Topeka - a tribute to a town in Kansas, which has temporarily changed its name to Google as it aims to become a Google fiber optic trial community.
"Google employees once known as "Googlers" should now be referred to as either "Topekers" or "Topekans," depending on the result of a board meeting that's ongoing at this hour," Google said on its web site.
In a bid to close the city's budget deficit, New York's mayor's office announced on its Twitter feed that Mayor Michael Bloomberg had decided to sell naming rights for Central Park, the East River and even ubiquitous former mayor Ed Koch.
"I appreciate the honor bestowed by the mayor when he included me with two of the city's major assets," Koch told Reuters by telephone. "I urge the bidding start at $25 million for me and $200 million for Central Park," he added, joining in with the frivolity.
Coffee shop chain Starbucks announced it was launching the "Plenta", a giant 128 fluid ounce (3.8 liters) cup of coffee and the Micra, a tiny 2 fluid ounce (0.06 liters) cup, saying it would meet customer demand for "more and less coffee."
A spoof website identical to the Boston Athletic Association's official site showed new, tougher qualifying standards for the city's annual marathon, as well as a much smaller total field of runners planned for 2011.
Achieving a Boston qualifying time, or "BQ," is a holy grail for many runners. The suggestion that most would need to slice another ten minutes off their 26.2-mile race times caused howls of protest until the prank was realized.
Across the Atlantic frolics were also the order of the day.
Britain's Guardian newspaper employed the services of its mixed-up April Fool correspondent Olaf Priol for a full page story on the ruling Labour party's secret ad campaign depicting Brown as a tough guy character from a Quentin Tarantino/Arnold Schwarzenegger film.
A few British newspapers also ran a spoof BMW ad offering branded roundels for BMW cars in the color of the political party the driver supports.
"BMW is giving you the chance to personalise your car depending on your political view," the small print says under a picture of three BMW badges in red for Labour, blue for Conservative and yellow for the Liberal Democrats.
The advert promises the badges can be replaced in seconds and in the event that the election, which is expected to be launched next week, results in a hung parliament, purchasers can have their roundels replaced for free by contacting Uwe.Beanhadde@bmw.co.uk.
Australian broadcaster ABC put out a spoof interview with an injured David Beckham in which the former England soccer captain said he was set to join the Australian national team, the Socceroos, as assistant manager and lead them to World Cup glory in South Africa this summer.
On a more scientific note, Britain's Independent newspaper reported that London Underground was in talks with the body that created the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland about putting a similar particle collider into the underground tunnel system on the Circle Line.
It said the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has worked out that a particle collider could be created inside the tube line which will see proton beams traveling clockwise and counterclockwise "at speeds of 99.999999 percent of the speed of light within feet of Circle Line passengers stuck in perpetual immobility."
April Fools' Day dates back centuries, but its origins remain unclear. A widespread theory is that it dates back to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar with the term April Fool applying to those who were still following the Julian Calendar.
By tradition in most countries, people can pull pranks before noon on April 1 in the name of April Fools' Day but become the fool themselves if they do it in the afternoon.
Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith in Sydney and Paul Casciato in London and Ros Krasny in Boston; Editing by Steve Addison and Patricia Reaney