Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Earworm

I'm blaming Geranium Cat for my present predicament.

She posts a perfectly normal post illustrated with a photograph of the landscape as seen from her garden - the glorious Cheviot hills. So far so good - nothing remotely irritating about that. The subsequent observation that 'A good Protestant upbringing has left me with a store of psalms that are in my head whether I want them or not...' is not irritating either. And I too am fond and familiar with Psalm 121 which begins 'I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills...'

I reply with a comment along the lines of having had a similar education. Indeed from aged 5 - 18 the school day started with hymns in Assembly - and there was no pandering to the tastes of small children either, it was straight into 'Hymns Ancient and Modern.' At secondary school along with a hymn book (for which we must embroider a purple felt cover) we were presented with a psalter. On Tuesdays we sang psalms which were then, to my untutored ear, ugly things.

Now the point of this small diversion is that after 13+ years of school assemblies and school in general there are a lot of words and music imprinted on my brain. It doesn't take much for a thought or a picture to bring a tune, religious or secular, to mind. On this occasion Geranium Cat saw her hills and thought Psalm 121. I saw her hills and now have the hymn 'Hills of the North Rejoice' on a continuous loop in my head. That's all the words and all the verses. It is a long hymn. Grrr. I'll add that seeing the motorway signs which state prophetically 'The North' have the same effect. Somethings are obviously going to be best avoided.

It's an earworm - an Ohrwurm - a sticky tune that keeps repeating itself. Apparently its a very common phenomena and has been described as a 'cognitive itch' by Professor Kellaris of Cincinnati University. Repeating the tune/phrase persistently is a way of scratching the itch. There doesn't seem to be much of a 'cure' either - as one runs the risk of replacing one irritating worm with another.

I have some 'favourites' all of which are truly awful:
  1. 'How Much is that Doggy in the Window?'
  2. Tie a Yellow Ribbon'
  3. 'Agadoo' (particularly bad)
  4. The song from the Young Farmers pantomime in 2006 - the name of which escapes me right now and which I'm not going to try very hard to remember. Just in case.
Actually after all that, I think it's gone now. Good.

16 comments:

Zoë said...

this had me laughing... two to add to your pile that float around my head with unerring regularity; David Bowie's Laughing Gnome (including all the daft voices)n and Ringo Starr's Octopus's Garden. I know exactly what you mean, but occasionally, like at the dentists, or the hospital I have found them brilliant distraction too.

Zoë

elizabethm said...

I didn't know it was called an earworm but it is a great name for it. I share Zoe's Octopus Garden and last weekend Ian and I both had "I don't have a wooden heart" which is truly dire. So hope that in making this comment I haven't passed it on!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Midnight at the oasis....

Bye bye Miss American Pie....

two more for your collection! Blasted things!

Faith said...

Brilliant blog! This happens to me ALL the time. After I saw the film Mamma Mia I had Abba songs in my head for a week or more. And hymns are the same for me as you, brought up on them at my catholic convent. But in another way, all the earworms in my head are part of me and I wouldnt like to lose them, not really! Altogether now - How much is that doggie....

lampworkbeader said...

Ho Hum! I wish I hadn't read this blog.I particularly hate 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon' and now I will be humming it all morning.

toady said...

Although now a confirmed heathen I loved Hills of the North Rejoice and also Whena Knight won his Spurs.

ChrisH said...

Noooooo! 'Hills of the North Rejoice, rivers and mountains streams....' Grr! You've got me at it now. Didn't know that's what they were called. The girls and I thought about doing a YOUtube from our kitchen of our'earworm' of the day - probably best left as a thought-in-progress!

LittleBrownDog said...

Oh no - now I've just remembered them, too! Used to love Hills of the North Rejoice (mind you, you'd have to travel a long way from that sign to get to any hills) as well as He Who Would Valient Be, Morning Has Broken, All Things Bright and Beautiful... I do like a good hymn, but there never seems an opportunity these days. Every time I do find myself in church (which isn't very often nowadays) it seems to be either strumming guitars or something nobody at all seems to know the tune of. Often including the organ player.

Nikki-ann said...

I've always got one song or another running around my head, usually irritating ones too! :D

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Love name earworm! I tend to find the words I am singing are not in fact the accepted version..has kids in fits.. I think mine are better..favourite school hymn was @breeath coolly thru my hot desire.. very popular in six form.

Pondside said...

My earworms are always country and western songs. The Great Dane, despite his heritage, is a HUGE fan of the twanging "lost my dog, my girl and my car" genre and I am stuck with whatever the last song was. I could weep!

Milla said...

is that the one with "from East and West their voices sweetly sing ..." I quite like it, but don't know enough of the words to be trapped. "I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky lucky" is my worst bugbear.
Love American Pie.
Some great aunt wrote Morning has Broken so am dutifully fond of it.

Eliane said...

I missed out on the hymns in my education and luckily as my dad was a jazz guitarist, most of the songs in my head are Gershwin, Porter et al. But I went for a run the other morning and could not get "raindrops and roses and soft woollen kittens" or whatever that bloody song is from The Sound of Music. They played it on Today just before I left. And now I've mentioned it again it won't stop.

Ragged Roses said...

Oh I love that word "earworm" such a good one. But now after reading this wonderful post and your particularly earworms, I find myself stuck with an additional one or two myself!
Kimx

GeraniumCat said...

This made me laugh lots, for which many thanks, it was heading for being a tough day. Of course, since you commented on my post I've had Hills of the North trundling round remorselessly, though I think that's a genuinely Hymns A&M one and not a Scottish Hymnary (no doubt I'll be corrected!)

I am trying VERY hard not to think of your list of "popular" earworms, for fear of infection, but happily, we're coming up to Christmas - Angels from the Realms of Glory, anyone?

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