Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ear worms

While on my knees in the flower bed, I was struck by an ear worm. No, not that nasty, voracious insect, the earwig, although I've had my battles with them, too.
What I'm talking about is the audio affliction, where a snippet of music gets stuck on permanent replay in your head.

The term is actually a corruption of the German word Ohrwurm and is used to designate a musical itch in the brain. According to researchers, 99% of people have, at one time or another, suffered from an earworm. Women are especially susceptible to the monotonous musical phrase playing endlessly in our minds, perhaps because we worry more than men. -- I'm not even going there! -- However, if you want to drive the man in your life crazy, just hum a bit of your earworm out loud and he's bound to catch it. Apparently, an earworm is a bit like a yawn, high infectious.

Psychoanalyst Theodor Reik had a nicer term for the phenomenom. He called it a "haunting melody". On a CBC radio show (CBC is the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) listeners were asked to find other terms. My favourite suggestion is "humbug."

There have been many scientific and unscientific studies as to the most likely tunes to produce this effect. They include "The Macarena," "Who Let the Dogs Out," "It's a Small World," the theme from "Sesame Street," and Beethoven's "Ode to Joy."
Luckily for me, the music on endless replay while I worked the flower bed, was the Sunday anthem. "Come before His presence with singing, Come before His presence with song." Although why I should think of coming into God's presence while wrestling the root of a dandelion, I'm not sure. "Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise." Yes, yes, on my knees, I give thanks for all that God has provided, but could You please turn off the tape? "Know that the Lord, He is our God, We are His people and the sheep of His pasture." Ah, perhaps I should listen instead of fighting. Perhaps my annoying earworm contains the voice of God, reminding me that no matter how hard I work at ordering my world, God is in charge. And when God is in charge, all things, even dandelions, show forth His wisdom.

So, here's a chance for another unscientific study. What tunes are most likely to infect you with an earworm?
Posted by Alice Valdal. Keep track of me and my writing and gardening adventures at http://www.alicevaldal.com/


  1. LOL Alice- ear worms, humbugs (that's a clever name!)! I loved your posting and yes, God does speak to us when we are doing mundane chores as well when we listen to sermons etc.

    My most likely tune is "This is the Day" which often plays in my mind when I walk in the early morning.

  2. Oh I dont know if i can say the song I get stuck in my head as im afraid it will get stuck again! But its the Hawthorn theme song (an australian rules team) sad thing is I hate this team!
    I tend to get jingles in my head too. the latest one is for Cadburys chocolate "putting on the ritz"

  3. Fascinating post. Thanks Alice.
    So in future, when I get a song stuck in my head I can shock those around me by saying I have an ear worm!
    With me, a song stuck in my head usually goes through the night with me. It's still with me when I wake in the morning.

    I've just been researching African words, and some idjut used the word "Ayoba" in the Frank Sinatra song, "That's amore!" So now guess what I'm going to sing all night? "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
    That's amore . . . " Just hope my ear worms get the word Amore right!

  4. Oh, ouch! Now "This is the day" "Putting on the Ritz" and "That's amore" are all playing at the same time. Nice to see we've all got original earworms rather than going with the common "Macarena" : )

  5. Fascinating post, Alice! I, too, love "humbug"!

    I was afraid to read the comments, though, for fear I'd catch everyone else's earworms.

    Oh, and I've been afflicted with Taylor Swift's Love Story lately – and I don't even have any preteens in the house to blame for it.

  6. Thanks for sharing about ear worms, Alice. I didn't know what one was. I've always thought of them as annoying tunes that never go away. They drive me crazy.
    It was nice your ear worm was in tune with our Lord. It means you have love in your heart and He is in your heart at the same time - you are both in tune with each other. Lovely!

  7. I forgot to come back but was chatting with a friend today as her son was singing a song. I said last week I got 1 2 3 4 5 once I caught a fish alive stuck in my head. Now I dont have kids, I dont watch play school or the kids shows like that now days and it just came in and then she didn't know the song so had to do it with the action this morning.