July 2013

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laugh " " You can sometimes dissolve this earworm by thinking of a song with a drastically different beat. Try something fast and classical for 'We Will Rock You.' Try hitting yourself with a shovel for 'Workin' in a Coalmine.' Your Pocket Guide to Earworms By Laura Gallagher I think I can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that everyone but the profoundly deaf-since-birth have had the misfortune (or fortune, if you're bored) of having an earworm at one point in their lives. Earworms are those bits of music that get stuck in your head on a little loop, regardless of whether you recently heard the particular song. (I get comedy routines and/or jokes as well, anybody else?) They can last for minutes, hours, days, or an entire "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode if you're Deanna Troi and some alien race with forehead bumps wants to molest the USS Enterprise for some reason. Having worked in the music business for several years, and having a husband that, if nothing else, rocks out on a regular basis, I'm probably more prone to earworms than many people. And, because I'm also probably more prone to bizarre flights of what is either whimsy or a serious issue that I should have checked out, I have examined and categorized them for you, my dear reader. Below please find some of the common types, causes, and potential remedies for various genres of the Lumbricus Auris. The "Word Up": One of the most common and easily dismissed, the Word Up earworm is triggered by a word or phrase used by oneself or others in conversation. Someone saying "Don't you…" will often be followed by those in the immediate vicinity singing "…forget about me! Hey, hey, hey, hey!" And then everybody starts reminiscing about "The Breakfast Club" and dancing like Molly Ringwald and it just gets all '80s and nostalgic and crap. Without wasting too much time on a backstory, where I work we offer a workshop for mental health professionals that we refer to internally as "Forgiveness." This has led to me and at least one co-worker quietly singing "even if, eeeeven if, you don't love me anymore" whenever it's mentioned in staff meetings. 80 BRAVA Magazine July 2013 The "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You": The RIGGY earworm is caused not so much by a word, but by a certain sound or sequence of sounds. The chug-a-chug of a train, rhythmic clapping, the click of a stapler. Ninety-eight percent of all "Workin' in a Coalmine" and "We Will Rock You" earworms are RIGGYs. Scientific fact. You can sometimes dissolve this earworm by thinking of a song with a drastically different beat. Try something fast and classical for "We Will Rock You." Try hitting yourself with a shovel for "Workin' in a Coalmine." The "Say Wot": The most inexplicable and thus, most difficult to remove. You've got no idea what made you think of "Benny and the Jets," "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)," or that Shania Twain song about feeling like a woman, but there it is. And there it will stay until you violently grab someone by the lapels and yell "Name a song, just name any song but [blank]!" Remember how I mentioned I also get jokes and comedy bits stuck in my head? I still don't know why I once had that scene from "Cheers" where Cliff is selling shoes and the whole bar buys them and they all squeak and then Rebecca yells "fire" and it's just eeker-eeker-eeker in my head. But I did, for several hours. Haunts me to this day. The "This Note's for You": Commercials are a great source of earworms. And because most people tune out commercials to some extent or another, it can be difficult to pinpoint the source. "Honey, why do I have 'Blitzkrieg Bop' in my head?" "It was just in a Coppertone commercial, sweetie!" "Is that why I have a sudden urge to slap the oldest surviving Ramone?" "Probably." As with the Say Wot, this earworm can be cured by thinking of another song as quickly as you can. Or by slapping Tommy Ramone (not recommended). In closing, sometimes earworms can be useful. The right one while running, or doing some other rhythmic or energy-dependent task can be invigorating and make the miles or work fly by, as long as you don't mind "Goody Two Shoes" taking a few spins in your head. P.S. In case you didn't notice, all earworm categories are also song titles. P.P.S. You're welcome. ••• Laura J. Gallagher is a longtime communications professional. When not teasing her husband, Triple M's Pat Gallagher, she is on Facebook at the Laura J. Gallagher page!

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