Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I've had a song stuck in my head recently.

Usually I hate when that happens, because often it is some obnoxious song like "Flying Purple People Eater", or "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". (Gotcha!) I've read that the Germans use the term "Ohrwurm" to describe this phenomenon, and that its literal translation to English, "earworm" has been popularized by Dr. James Kellaris. Dr. Kellaris has performed research into earworms, and discovered that while everyone experiences it as some point, some people experience it more often, especially women, musicians, and those that are prone to worry (pity the worrisome female musician). There is even an earworm top ten list. Click the link at your own risk. :)

This weekend, my grandson Austin, who has shown signs of being musically inclined, was sitting at the computer playing on Club Penguin, while whistling a tune that was apparently going through his head. I actually laughed out loud when I realized that he was whistling the 1968 rock classic "Sunshine of Your Love". I wondered how an 11 year old might have a 40 year old song stuck in his head. When I asked, he said, "Oh yeah, that's from Guitar Hero". Score another point for the Wii for teaching today's kids to appreciate great music.

So what's the tune that's been stuck in MY head? Stay tuned (pun intended). That'll be the topic of my next post.


Snapshot said...

Speaking as one of the worrisome female musically inclined, it doesn't help when you have 2 members of your family who think it's funny to cause the Ohrwurm phenomenon. Ironically they are father and son with the same first name. Hint hint.

Danny said...

"So what's the tune that's been stuck in MY head? Stay tuned (pun intended). That'll be the topic of my next post."

"Happy Valentines Day"? I'm not familliar with that tune.

Kevin said...

About a decade ago, I came up with an anti-earworm strategy that has served me surprisingly well. Although I wasn't aware of memetics at the time, I think it works in much the same way as Godwin's counter-meme.

I have a song that I picked long ago, and made it my counter-earworm song. Whenever a song gets ridiculously stuck in my head and just won't go away, I sing my counter-earworm song a few times in my head. Enough times to drive the earworm song out. Although the new song might get stuck there for a bit, I find it fades quicker than if I had waited for the earworm to run its course.

Danny said...

Have you ever tried to stick someone with an earworm? At times all it takes is mentioning the title or a well known line of a song. Sometimes humming, whistling, or singing a "catchy" part of the tune will do it. The method I've found works best though I'll call "stutter-sing". The idea behind stutter-sing is to sing the song at a volume that is audible to the person you are trying affect while remaining unobtrusive. Then when there is no natural pause in the song, suddenly stop singing aloud, but continue to sing the song at the same tempo in your head. After a few words (preferably when there is still no natural pause in the song) pick right back up singing at the original volume. Going back and forth between quiet singing and silent singing like this a few times is the most reliable method I've found. This works well with humming too, but it seems to work best with singing.

Julie said...

I, too, love to tease with the Ohrwurm. Especially with my kids as they get ready for school. I pick something they hate, like a Barney song. You know, "I love you, you love me". After harshly telling me to stop with the song,,, I hear them singing it while walking to the bus... hee hee..... it's fun.