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10 Full-Throated Facts About Eurovision

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Starting up in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest—commonly known as ESC or just Eurovision—is the world’s biggest talent show, and although many U.S. viewers have never heard of it, it’s being broadcast stateside for the first time ever this year, on Viacom-owned Logo. That means it’s a great time to catch up on the facts about one of the most popular televised events in Europe, which is known just as much for its kitschy antics as the actual music.

1. THE CONTEST HAS CLASSICAL ROOTS.

André Claveau at the 1958 Eurovision Song Contest. Image Credit: Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

When Eurovision first aired, only solo artists were permitted to compete, and each artist was accompanied by a 24-piece orchestra led by Fernando Paggi—a far cry from the very pop music-centric showcase the ESC is today.

2. IT ALL STARTED WITH THE SWISS.

Lys Assia, shortly after winning the very first Eurovision Song Contest. Image credit: Getty Images

Switzerland won the very first Eurovision competition, and it hosted the event too. (Suspicious? Possibly.) Swiss singer Lys Assia took home the glory with the French-language song “Refrain.” Some of the weirder-sounding runners-up from that year included Belgium’s entry, "Messieurs les noyés de la Seine" (the Drowned Gentlemen of the Seine), and Germany’s "Im Wartesaal Zum Großen Glück" (In The Good Luck Waiting Room).

3. NO SONGS OVER THREE MINUTES—AND NO ANIMALS ON STAGE, PLEASE.

The official rules to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest change regularly, but some include: no songs over three minutes, no previously commercially released songs (i.e., no covers!), no more than six people on stage at once, and no live animals. In 1990, it was decreed that all performers must be over the age of 16, which makes Belgian singer Sandra Kim, who was 13 in 1986 when she took home the prize, forever locked in as history’s youngest Eurovision winner.

4. WINNING COMES WITH RESPONSIBILITIES.

Måns Zelmerlöw winning Eurovision 2015. Image credit: Getty Images

The country that wins each year’s Eurovision must host the competition the following year. This means that Sweden, whose 2015 artist, pop singer Måns Zelmerlöw, won with “Heroes” last year in Vienna, will host the 61st Eurovision this week in Stockholm.

5. THE FUN ISN’T ALWAYS RESTRICTED TO EUROPE.

Australia's Guy Sebastian performs during Eurovision 2015. Image Credit: Getty Images

Australia competed in 2015, as a one-time celebration of the contest’s 60th anniversary and a nod to that year’s theme, “Building Bridges.” This was good news for them, as for decades, the country-continent has had a huge cult Eurovision fanbase.

6. ONE EUROVISION WINNER BECAME AN MP IN THE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT.

Ruslana at a dress rehearsal at the 2005 Eurovision. Image Credit: Getty Images

Ukraine’s 2004 entrant, Ruslana, brought home a victory for the former Soviet republic, and its singer was subsequently awarded a seat as an MP in the country’s parliament a few years later. One of the most successful recording artists in Ukraine’s history, Ruslana—a pianist, singer, and actress—was later nominated as “the Hero of Ukraine”; she also served as the country’s UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

7. SECOND EQUALS LAST, APPARENTLY.

No Eurovision winner has ever performed second on the roster. So if you’re up second, you’re not winning, or so it seems.

8. YOU MIGHT BE BLINDED BY THE LIGHT.

Inga & Anush of Armenia during Eurovision 2009 in Moscow. Image Credit: Getty Images.

In 2009, the set for the Eurovision finale in Moscow utilized 30% of the world's supply of LED screens, according to the BBC. It also included an interval show that featured Russian pop duet t.A.T.u. performing with the Red Army Choir—and a bright pink military tank.

9. IRELAND IS A BIG WINNER.

Ireland is the winningest country (so far), with seven total wins to its 49 total entries.

10. NORWAY, NOT SO MUCH.

Ranking at the top of the list of the world’s most developed countries, Norway generally doesn’t have much to pity itself about, but you might feel sorry for them in light of their consistently and spectacularly low Eurovision scores. The Scandinavian nation has come in dead last on 10 separate occasions, and it’s scored null (negative) points not once but FOUR times. (Their 1980 entry was a protest song about a hydroelectric power station, so ... maybe they deserved it a little.)

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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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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.

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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.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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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.

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

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

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 chomping on your mug to worry about humans.

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

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

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

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

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

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

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

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

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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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