Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Get That Worm Out Of My Ear

      An earworm is a tune that goes round and round in your mind until you manage to drive it out with another one. It's a translation of a German word, ohrwurm, which means "earworm," and it has the same sense in Berlin as it does in Seattle. People with characteristics of O.C.D. are more likely to have frequent and severe earworm infestations, and yes, I've harbored the little critters all my life. Guilty as charged. The shoe fits.
      What may be odd about my earworms is that many of them are induced by dreams, then rage between my ears for hours after I wake up. Some of them are (as best I can tell) original compositions; some are ragtime melodies; some, themes from pieces of classical music. Some are operatic. Wagner seems to over-represented. I wonder if the Master of Beyreuth suffered from ohrwurmen.
      Yesterday morning, I woke up with what might have been my most unusual earworm ever. I'd been dreaming I was watching a Seattle Mariners baseball game, and the players in the dugout were singing a chorus about Ichiro's skills. The only line I remember was, "He's a; he's the King-of...the Bat." And then, Ichiro sang the verse, but I can't tell you how it went, because he sang in Japanese. How do I know it was Japanese, and not just some gibberish my subconscious cooked up? Because I knew. The subconscious is often wrong, but never in doubt. Whether Japanese, Japlish, or junk, the tune stuck in my mind in Ichiro's voice nearly the entire day. I could actually hum it aloud.  
      I guess it could've been worse. I could've been stuck all day in a stadium-full of old-time Yankee fans chanting, "Joe, Joe, DiMaggio, we want you on our team," while their Red Sox counterpoints bellowed, "He's better than his brother Joe, Dominic DiMaggio." Or Teresa Brewer, singly coyly, "I love Mickey. Mickey Who? Mickey Mantle." There was also a song about Willie Mays from those years, but I think I'm safe from that one: all I can remember of it is Willie's boyish countertenor breaking in every now and again with a loud, "Say Hey!"
      I once woke my wife by sitting bolt-upright in bed at three AM, and shouting, "Null and void!" at the top of my lungs. She wanted to know what I'd been dreaming, but I had no idea. Maybe I'd stumbled on an auditory vermicide. If so, it's probably suitable for use only by solitary sleepers.

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