Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Ear Worms

First, the phrase "ear worm" is yucky. There really should be a less descriptive coupling of words to indicate songs that get stuck in the brain, as the image of a worm in my ear is mildly upsetting--and the image tends to get stuck in my brain, too. 

My own weird brain stickiness is my topic for the day: non-musical ear worms. I have them. Do you? This week, the following doggerel is my non-musical ear worm:
In the woods, deep down damp, piggy feet stop, piggy feet stamp. Waddle snuffle dig dig dig piggety piggety piggety pig. From Eve Merriam's "You Be Good & I'll Be Night" collection of poems.
 I haven't actually read this poem to a preschooler in at least 18 years. But it frequently surfaces in my brain, nudged to consciousness by who knows what.

Actually, I do know what! On the recommendation of NPR, I am reading "Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried In A Chilean Mine, And The Miracle That Set Them Free." 

Deep Down Dark to Deep Down Damp. See how the mind works?

So, in between deep thoughts about functionally illiterate mail carriers, clients who refuse to respond to letters delivered by functionally illiterate mail carriers, and the advisability of throwing out letters delivered to me by functionally illiterate mail carriers 30 years ago, "piggety, piggety" resounds in my brain. 

My non-musical ear worms tend to be fairly sotto voce. They niggle at the base of my consciousness. Most of the time, I hear them but easily ignore them. Rhyming phrases are most often rumbling around. But rhythmic sentences can also erupt. For years, I heard this odd coupling of two couples: 
Barbara and David. Brent and Donna. 
There is no connection between these couples. I hardly know the latter. And I was out of touch with the former for many of the years that I heard this phrase. Yet, there it was, softly murmuring in my brain.  

Musical ear worms are, for the most part, annoying little buggers. Often, it's the catchiest melodies rather than the most interesting or complex that stick around. I know that, on the rare occasion that we sing an anthem in church that I do not care for, I WILL be hearing it all week long. 

(On the other hand, when "piggety, piggety" has subsided this week, I've been fortunate enough to sink back, oh-so-gratefully, into musical ear worms from Bach's "Mass in B Minor." The Kyrie, to be precise.)

My non-musical ear worms aren't nearly as annoying. The two couple phrase was oddly soothing. This week's doggerel (wait, just looked that up and really, this poem is NOT doggerel, merely comic) is enervating. It makes me want to dance. Or stomp, at the very least. And shout, most certainly.  

Oliver Sacks' book, "Musicophilia" covered musical ear worms. But I don't recall that he discussed non-musical ones, nor can I find anything through my friend, Google. I suspect though, were I to comb the medical histories of folks with OCD, I would find some mention of it. But I don't fit neatly in that particular neurological slot.  

I have a friend who suggests that I often ask questions. I don't often do so in my blogging. But I am today. Does anyone else have non-musical ear worms? Do tell.


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