February 14, 2011
They can strike without warning and in completely unrelated situations. All it takes is one little trigger, maybe just a single word to set them off. That annoying little thing known as earworms – and they can be almost as hard as the hiccups to get rid of.
Earworms, a borrowed translation from the German word Ohrurm, are a portion of a song that repeats itself over and over in your mind. Usually, these songs that you know and in their normal context aren’t always annoying – but the moment you have one, such as "How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria" from The Sound of Music resounding in your head, you might just be convinced it’s the worst possible song ever written. Show tunes are notorious for being catchy, as are jingles – just how often have you stood in line and suddenly found yourself thinking of the Jeopardy! theme?
Earworms shouldn’t be confused with the Tetris Effect, which is when a person spends a significant amount of time on a certain activity that it begins to take over their lives, even to the point where things that are completely unrelated to the activity can remind them of it. Earworms are thankfully temporary; even though the same song can be on repeat at random intervals for weeks. I only say this because I’ve had the same earworm ever since the first blizzard of January.
All it has taken is for one person to say the word "cabin fever", and my mind instantly starts playing the song of the same name from Muppet Treasure Island. It’s taken me several weeks to finally remember the one line I couldn’t. Hopefully, with the return of the sunshine and above freezing temperatures, I can avoid any further incidents.
Happy reading – or should that be, happy singing?
Red Bridge Branch