On April 1, Corporate America Dons the Foolscap

It's April Fools' Day, and in a tradition that seems to have weathered even the direst financial news, some of America's top companies have posted practical jokes for their loyal fans. From Google (GOOG) to Starbucks (SBUX), TechCrunch to Qualcomm (QCOM), even the normally staid titans of industry and the Internet are making the world just a little bit quirkier today.

Real tricksters probably regard April Fools' Day in much the same way that Lady Gaga views Halloween: Sure, it's fine for amateurs to try their hands at silliness, but the real pros fly the freak flag every day. Then again, there's a lot to be said for the kind of high-quality goofiness that otherwise sober companies can put out when it's socially acceptable.

For example, the famous BBC spaghetti hoax still has a hold on audiences over 50 years after its debut. And NPR's 1992 announcement that Richard Nixon was running for president under the slogan "I didn't do anything wrong and I won't do it again" still has the ability to amuse (and chill) listeners.

Don't Mess With Miss Liberty

Then again, April Fools' trickery can translate into some uncomfortable moments for big businesses, as in the case of Taco Bell's 1996 claim that it had purchased the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the "Taco Liberty Bell." Within hours, the fast-food company and the National Park Service were inundated with terrified calls from upset listeners. While the hoax had no long-term effect on the company's bottom line, it managed to get Taco Bell some scathing commentary in the press.

Google's pranks are a little more harmless. To begin with, the site has renamed itself "Topeka" as a shout out to the bustling Kansas city that recently renamed itself "Google" for a day a month. While this might be good for a snarky little grin, it isn't really a gut-buster. Google saved the real yuks for "Google Translate for Animals," a fake app for the Android phone that will allegedly enable users to play Dr. Doolittle with any animals in their vicinity. The ad, released by the wacky folks at Google UK, plays like a real tech ad, complete with a slightly uncomfortable, style-challenged programmer type explaining the new tool to a rough-and-tumble farmer.

Other Google-related hoaxes aren't quite as playful. TechCrunch, for example, reported that Google, upset over its recent run-ins with China, was planning to go nuclear. According to the article, the search giant is building a uranium-enrichment facility, which it claims is part of the Google Green Initiative. However, the piece goes on to cite experts, including members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who see the move through much darker lenses. According to one anonymous source: "The U.S. government clearly won't protect Google from China, so Google is taking the logical step of protecting itself with a physical deterrent."

Pecked to Death by Butterflies

On a lighter note, Starbucks announced plans to launch two new sizes of coffee: the Plenta and the Micra. The Plenta, a 128-ounce behemoth, features a tub-size cup that the site claims could also be used as a "popcorn receptacle, rain hat, perennial planter, lampshade or yoga block." On the other hand, the micra only offers two ounces, a "quick and satisfying morsel of goodness."

Perhaps the most effective April Fools' hoax came from Qualcomm, which seamlessly combined slapstick, prank and advertisement in a Facebook video showing two users of its Mirasol displays being killed by swarms of butterflies. The highlight of the video is probably the bunny-clutching entomologist, Dante Manscup, who advises butterfly victims to "assume the fetal position" and warns viewers that "It is commonly known that the butterfly is the only living creature with no heart. Take that as you will."

We're sure plenty of other clever -- and clumsy -- hoaxes are flying around today. If you find any worth passing along, drop us a line!