Learn more about how information technology is changing
our lives and our world. PLUS NEWS + EVENTS

Springtime, Sleeping Lions & the Earworms Phenomenon

I’ve had a lot of show tunes stuck in my head this past week – not sure why – but the coup de grace was “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers. So I decided to do a search and see what other people have said about this phenomenon (not the show tunes per se but songs in general.) Here’s the scoop:

They’re called ‘earworms’ and they happen to women and musicians most. (No wonder – I’m both…) WebMD reports that 98% of people have had this happen to them at one time or another. James J. Kellaris, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati did a study in 2003 of 559 students and on their list of most common earworms were songs like “YMCA”, “Who Let the Dogs Out” and my personal favorite, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” that played repeatedly on hold music for this hotel I was to stay in once and I recall being stuck listening to that song for hours. No wonder I was traumatized by that trip.

Just yesterday, someone on Fazed mentioned getting “We Belong” stuck in his/her head after having not heard it in years. That happens to me all the time – I always wonder where my brain digs this stuff up. No one seemed to respond with any intelligent scientific info on that though.

For those cases where we find ourselves “tortured” by one annoying song that just won’t get out of our heads, Alison McCook wrote in ’03 that “people most frequently plagued by this phenomenon are those with slightly neurotic tendencies, and people who enjoy and listen to music often.”

For those people, rumor has it that chewing on cinnamon sticks will help make the song begone. I’ll see if that works. All I know is that by the time I’d finished drafting this post, “Springtime For Hitler” had been replaced by “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. (Trivia tidbit: I looked up the lyrics and all of those “haweemowah” type sounds in the song are mostly Zulu for phrases like “the lion’s in peace” and “the lion sleeps.” Kinda boring for how exotic they sound…)

As for tonight, my guess is “Auld Lang Syne” will get stuck in my head fairly soon. Happy New Year!


  1. >And for today’s show tune earworm, we have “Little Girls” from Annie.

  2. >Today’s is the worst yet – “Cool It Now” by New Edition. Not a show tune, but definitely irritating.