The Dreaded Earworm

No, I don’t mean the corn earworm, although the gardeners and farmers of the world might have a word to say about these pests…

English: A corn earworm (helicoverpa zea) larv...

English: A corn earworm (helicoverpa zea) larva (possibly in 3rd instar) in situ on a cob of corn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m talking about that nasty little bugger of a song that sets up housekeeping in your head!

You know the kind.  That pesky song or catchy tune that goes on and on

in a loop,

for hours,

sometimes even days!

And to clarify this phenomenon for you, he actually doesn’t even live in your ear.

He lives here in your auditory cortex.

The primary auditory cortex is one of the main...

The primary auditory cortex is one of the main areas associated with superior pitch resolution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I looked the word up on the Mirriam Webster site and they’ve listed its first known use as 1802, but won’t give us a clue as to where or by whom.  Bad form, sez I! says it hails from Germany and that it is pronounced Ohrwurm.  However, they give its first use in 1980 to 1985.

I even paid a visit to the venerable Oxford Dictionary, surely they must…  NOPE!  They barely acknowledge it is a word and that, seemingly, is as far as they will allow.

Still searching for its true origins led me to an article in the Guardian by Vadim Prokhorov, on June 22, 2006, entitled Can’t Get it Out of My Head.  

Herein I read the following quote from Dr. James Kellaris’ study on the earworm, at the University of Cincinnati, in which he states:

“Earworms seem to be an interaction between properties of music (catchy songs are simple and repetitive), characteristics of individuals (levels of neuroticism) and properties of the context or situation (first thing in the morning, last thing at night or when people are under stress),”


Oh, now, we don’t like that, do we?


Well, I suppose if we must suffer with the occasional earworm, then at least mine will prove to be one of the gentler variety.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Pssst… I thought Dave F. at Yet Another Comic had a great take on the dreaded earworm.  Go have a look!



What songs can’t you get out of your head?


Photo Credit: Earworms: Why That Song Gets Stuck In Your Head


My friend Marianna sent me the cure for an earworm and I just had to share it with you!


31 thoughts on “The Dreaded Earworm

    • Lynda says:

      Bill, I’ll take good music hands down as opposed to, say, a TV jingle. This one drove me INSANE! I was never so glad to see an ad campaign DIE!!! Don’t click on it, you know you know it, OK? :mrgreen:

  1. ladyofthecakes says:

    That’s interesting… being German, it’s always been part of my vocab, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term being used in the UK. I didn’t realise that it was common parlance in the US…?

    • Lynda says:

      Simone, I think it is a recent phenomenon. I honestly don’t recall when I first heard it, but I did hear it used in a TV sitcom. Which show it was I can’t say for certain. Perhaps The Big Bang Theory? Anyway, that was many years back as it is now going into its 9th season… but I digress. The show is quite popular here and now the word is really getting some usage. 😀

  2. katechiconi says:

    I don’t want to tell you because if I let it rise to the surface of my mind, it’ll be in my head all day! I’m having trouble keeping it down as it is… gah!

      • katechiconi says:

        OK then. ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’, with lots of twiddles in the tune. It pops into my head at deeply inopportune moments, and I groan mentally as the record starts up: “Heaven, I’m in heaven…” Meanwhile, I’m in earworm hell. Well, you did ask.

  3. shoreacres says:

    Well, now all you need is a German. I found a page devoted to the German etymology of Ohrwurm here, but I can’t seem to find a date listed.

    In any event, no earworms for me. Songs will stay in my mind, but only for an hour or two. On the other hand, sometimes a song from years — even decades — ago will come to mind, complete with lyrics and tune. That happened the other day with “Volare.” I don’t even speak Italian, but I can remember all the lyrics in both Italian and English. Pretty interesting.

    • Lynda says:

      Linda, I never liked Volare, but then I’d never heard it sung by anyone but Dean Martin. He was never on my Hit-Parade of folks I liked to listen to. But as it happens, when I went to Youtube looking for it, I found that Domenico Modugno puts his heart into the song recorded on what appears to be *Kinescope.

      However, further listening brought me to Luciano Pavarotti with a Henri Mancini Orchestral backing… This could become my future and possibly favorite earworm. 😀

      *KINESCOPE: As used here it defines the use of a film camera to record the broadcast images of a TV program, shown via a cathode ray tube (think old boxy TV), to preserve them for future use. Shows recorded using Kinescope were always blurry and a bit wavy looking as you can see in the recording of Domenico Moduno. (I know you already know this, Linda, but this is for anyone who isn’t as ancient as we are. LOL!)

    • Lynda says:

      Marianna, I might just be jealous!
      Those earwigs are almost non-existent here, though in the west they were so bad I used to refer to them as California Cockroaches. GAAACK!

  4. Jane says:

    How interesting! I have a lot of German ancestry and have been interested in how many single words they have to describe something that may take a sentence or more in English. I had never actually heard of the term earworm. The songs that tend to stick in my head usually come from advertising. There are a few others but strangely I can’t remember them at all at this moment. That’s probably a good thing as if I remembered them now they would stick in my head for the rest of the day! 🙂

    • Lynda says:

      I have read that it is the same in the Hebrew language. Which for the non-speaker of either language can, I’m certain, be a significant stumbling block. As for your lack of Aussie earworms, might I share one of mine from my childhood? It was very popular on the radio when I was about 7 or 8. (Please don’t hate me for this.) 😀
      1957: Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport by Rolf Harris (This would later become a world wide favorite in the 60s!)

    • Lynda says:

      Thank you, Julie! You didn’t tell me your earworm. Might I might guess…? Yours, I’m certain, does not produce the same effect for you as ours do for us. (((O)))

    • Lynda says:

      Um, Laurie, I did… click on the pensive looking lady (Jeanne Crain) sitting in the window and entitled It might as well be spring in my post. 😉

  5. Kathleen Clark says:

    Mine change all the time. I don’t remember the name of the one I last had, but I remember it surprised me because it was from so long ago and I don’t think it had ever surfaced before. I’ll let you know next time I have one. I DO like the ones that are heaven sent, like when I wake up to Dvorak’s “This Day Was Made for Great Rejoicing,” which we sang when I was in the Vancouver Bach Choir. The one that drove both John and I nuts for years was the radio jingle “Green Dragon (bing, bing, bing) Almond Cookies.” It would hit both of us at the weirdest times.

    • Lynda says:

      Kathee, I went looking for Dvorak on Youtube and there were several recordings. I went with the one from the 30s with the pops and crackles. 🙂 I also found the verses to a hymn by the same name. Passage 5 had your words in it. So very lovely! Are the Orchestral piece and the words one and the same work?
      This day was made for great rejoicing,
      this day is truly God’s creation!
      The universe delight is voicing,
      all Nature joins the celebration.

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