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39 Amazing Facts for National Trivia Day

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Getty Images

Here's a little-known fact: January 4th is National Trivia Day! Here are some fun facts to impress your neighbors.

1. In Japan, letting a sumo wrestler make your baby cry is considered good luck.

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2. The actor who was inside R2-D2 hated the guy who played C-3PO, calling him "the rudest man I've ever met."

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3. Sea otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't drift apart.

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4. In 1986, Apple launched a clothing line.

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5. Between 1900 and 1920, Tug of War was an Olympic event.

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6. The word "unfriend" appeared in print all the way back in 1659.

(See Also: 16 Words That Are Much Older Than They Seem)

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7. A baby can cost new parents 750 hours of sleep in the first year.

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8. The Code of Hammurabi decreed that bartenders who watered down beer would be executed.

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9. The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-V handbook classifies caffeine withdrawal as a mental disorder.

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10. The Dole/Kemp website from 1996 is still up and running.

(See Also: 17 Ancient Abandoned Websites That Still Work)

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11. In 19th-century Britain, opium for babies was marketed under the name "Quietness."

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12. Google was originally named BackRub.

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13. The SarcMark was invented by Paul Sak to emphasize a sarcastic phrase, sentence or message.

(See also: 13 Little-Known Punctuation Marks We Should Be Using)
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14. Winston Churchill's mother was born in Brooklyn.

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15. In 1999, the U.S. government paid the Zapruder family $16 million for the film of JFK's assassination.

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16. Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

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17. Mary Todd Lincoln was once asked if Abe had any hobbies. Her reply: “Cats.”

(See Also: 24 Vintage Photos of Abe Lincoln Being Awesome)

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18. Brazil couldn't afford to send its athletes to the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. So they loaded their ship with coffee and sold it along the way.

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19. Before Stephen Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants, he taught marine biology.

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20. New Mexico State's first graduating class in 1893 had only one student—and he was shot and killed before graduation.

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21. Before he played Cliff Clavin on Cheers, John Ratzenberger had small roles in The Empire Strikes Back, Superman, and Gandhi.

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22. Before choosing the name "Chiefs," ownership considered calling the team the Kansas City Mules.

(See Also: 25 Rejected Nicknames for Professional Sports Teams)
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23. George Washington insisted his continental army be permitted a quart of beer as part of their daily rations.

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24. When Canada's Northwest Territories considered renaming itself in the 1990s, one name that gained support was "Bob."

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25. The most shoplifted food item in the U.S. is candy.

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26. In Europe, it's cheese.

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27. Some cats are allergic to humans.

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28. There are roughly 70 ingredients in the McRib.

(See Also: 10 Things You Might Not Know About the McRib)

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29. President Nixon was speaking at Disney World when he famously declared, "I am not a crook."

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30. After OutKast sang “Shake it like a Polaroid picture,” Polaroid released a statement that said, “Shaking or waving can actually damage the image.”

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31. Nutella was invented during WWII, when an Italian pastry maker mixed hazelnuts into chocolate to extend his chocolate ration.

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32. The Pledge of Allegiance was written as part of a plan to sell flags to schools.

(See Also: Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance?)
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33. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh played Screech's cousin on a 1996 episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Class.

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34. The light emitted by 200,000 galaxies makes our universe a shade of beige. Scientists call the color "cosmic latte."

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35. Bikini designer Louis Reard said a two-piece bathing suit couldn't be called a bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."

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36. If your dog's feet smell like corn chips, you're not alone. The term "Frito Feet" was coined to describe the scent.

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37. Alaska is so big you could fit 75 New Jerseys in it.

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38. The Scots have a word for that panicky hesitation you get when introducing someone whose name you can't remember: tartle.

(See Also: 38 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent)

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39. In a study by the Smell & Taste Research Foundation, the scent women found most arousing was Good & Plenty candy mixed with cucumber.

For more amazing facts follow @mental_floss on Twitter. Images courtesy of Getty Images and Thinkstock.

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Cost Plus World Market

Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

Buy on Amazon.

2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

Buy on ThinkGeek.

4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

Buy on Amazon.

5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

Buy on Amazon.

6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

Buy on Amazon.

7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
Cost Plus World Market

This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

Buy at Cost Plus World Market.

8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

Buy on Amazon.

9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

Buy on Amazon.

10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

Buy on Amazon.

11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

Buy on Amazon.

12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

Buy on Amazon.

13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

Buy on Amazon.

14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

Buy on Amazon.

15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

Buy on Amazon.

16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

Buy on Amazon.

17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

Buy on Live Infused.

18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

Buy on Amazon.

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