San Serriffe

From Academic Kids

San Serriffe is a fictional island nation created in the spirit of April Fool's Day. An elaborate description of the nation, using puns and plays on words relating to typography (such as "serif"), was reported as straight news, apparently fooling many readers who did not understand the joke.

The first version of the hoax appeared in the British newspaper The Guardian on 1 April 1977. A seven-page supplement was published in the style of contemporary reviews of foreign countries, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the island's independence, complete with themed advertisements from major companies. The island was reused for similar hoaxes in 1978, 1980 and 1999.

San Serriffe was one of the most famous and successful hoaxes of recent decades; although The Guardian will always have first claim to the hoax, it has become part of the common cultural heritage of literary humour, and a secondary body of literature has been derived from it. The remainder of the article draws from these many sources.


San Serriffe

San Serriffe is an island nation, also known as Hoaxe, in the southern oceans. It is most usually described as being in the Indian Ocean, but owing to a peculiarity of ocean currents and erosion its exact position does vary. A recent report locating it in the Bering Sea was presumably an error.


San Serriffe is an archipelago consisting of two main islands and a number of smaller ones. Of the larger islands, the more northerly (the Caissa Superiore or Upper Caisse) is roughly round and the more southerly (the Caissa Inferiore or Lower Caisse) round but with a promontory extending south-westwards from the south-east, at Thirty Point. The two major islands are separated by the Shoals of Adze, dominated by Cap Em. The capital, Bodoni, is in the centre of the Caissa Superiore, and is served by an international airport. It is linked by fast highways to the major ports, including Port Clarendon. However since the rise of the personal computer industry, Arial in the Lower Caisse has acquired increasing importance.

Ethnic groups

The native people of San Serriffe are the Flong. However the dominant group are of European stock, the descendants of colonists and known as colons. There is also a large mixed-race group, known as semi-colons.


For many years following independence in 1967, San Serriffe had an autocratic form of government under military strongman General Pica. However, democratic elections have now been held, and since 1997 the ruler has been the charismatic Antonio Bourgeois.


Among the cultural highlights of life in San Serriffe are:

  • The Cult of the Sonorous Enigma
  • The Festival of the Well-Made Play
  • The Ampersand String Quartet

The relaxation of the islands' strict anti-pornography laws under the Bourgeois government has led to the publication of a series of risqué novels by Serriffean journalists, collectively referred to as the "Times Nude Romances".


The bitter-sweet swarfega is prepared in various ways to create unique Serriffean dishes, and for this reason the local cuisine lacks the oiliness characteristic of some related styles.

National bird

The kwote is a member of the guillemot family.


San Serriffe has made little impression on the international sporting world apart from their epic defeat of England at football in 1999. The application of the national Rugby Union team, the Kwotes, to participate in the Rugby Union World Cup 1991 was rejected by a Twickenham official on the grounds that "We don't have any four-figure scoreboards, old boy." However the islands' annual endurance challenge race, involving running, mountain biking, and windsurfing from Cap Em to the German immigrant village of Ems in the Caissa Inferiore (popularly known as the Two Em Dash), now attracts international participants, and it has been some years since it was won by a Serriffean athlete.

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