Monday, February 20, 2012


Earworms are those songs, jingles, or tunes that get stuck inside your head.  The Germans, naturally, have a word for them: ohrwurms.  They're often desribed as that "damned song" or even warrant the F-word. 

According to professor James J. Kellaris of the University of Cincinnati, approximately 98% of people have had songs stuck in their head at some time or other.  He reported a survey of 559 students university students; among the prime offenders were the Chili's "Baby Back Ribs" Jingle and with the Baha Men song "Who Let the Dogs Out."

Here's the ten biggest offenders, according to Kellaris's survey:

1.  Other.  Everyone has his or her own worst earworm.
2.  Chili's "Baby Back Ribs" jingle.
3.  "Who Let the Dogs Out"
4.  "We Will Rock You"
5.  Kit-Kat candy-bar jingle ("Gimme a Break ...")
6.  "Mission Impossible" theme
7.  "YMCA"
8.  "Whoomp, There It Is"
9.  "The Lion Sleeps Tonight"
10.  "It's a Small World After All"

This list is probably dated, and a 2012 list might have differences.  And I admit to liking "We Will Rock You," "YMCA," and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Other offenders mentioned in other articles include Nelly Furtado’s Powerless, Marilyon Mansons “Tainted Love,” and Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart."

As a personal remark, my wife, children, and I did "It's a Small World" at Disney World.  With those manically singing dolls, I got a mini-version of a world poetically described by Dante and Milton.

But my real bête noire  has to be "Break My Stride," by Matthew Wilder.

Women are more annoyed by earworms than are men.  The most common way of coping with an earworm is to to try to substitute another tune or song in conscousness.  People who are a little neurotic or OCD are more likely to have earworm problems.

Earworms are a part of life.  Not as bad as taxes or suppositories, but they also serve.


  1. 3,4,and 9 sometimes for me. But I read the trick to get a song out of your head is to sing it or just hum it out loud.

  2. "I Will Survive" makes me wnt to retch.

  3. I have them from time to time. The latest is "I got You Babe." Sonny and Cher are to blame for that,

    At least it's not "MacArthur's Park." Why should I care about that damned cake?

  4. "Achy Breaky Heart" is the all-time worst one for me. I do have a few instrumental earworms, most of which no one but me has ever heard ("Four-Twenty AM," by David Rose and his Orchestra...).