I saw a man, he danced on an earworm with his wife

Burt's Eye View

Among the greatest pestilences, plagues and pesky problems known to mankind — to womankind, too — is the earworm.

An earworm is created when a bouncy song with lots of rhythmic repetition floats on the airwaves, gains too much altitude, freezes, and a chunk of the tune breaks off. Iced-over song snippets plummet to earth all the time.

Every once in a while, a person — you, for example — accidentally steps into the path of a falling frosted flake of a melody, and it whaps your ear. That frozen snippet gets up, dusts itself off, then slithers down the ear canal and wriggles around your brain.

And that, scientifically speaking, is how you end up with random lines from “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Gangnam Style” or the Barney song lodged in your brain.

You think I jest? Scientists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland conducted extensive studies on earworms. Not only did they research how earworms are created (their version of the facts differ from mine), but in 2016, they diagnosed the the most annoyingly addictive earworms.

The top five, in order, are “We Will Rock You,” by Queen; “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams; “We are the Champions” by Queen; “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers; and “YMCA” by the Village People.

Eventually, a great big sneeze will exorcise your earworm (I think that’s how it happens) and life returns to normal.

Earworm infections themselves are enough of a melody malady. Ah, if only that was the extent of the virus. Lately, I’ve been wrestling with a weird new strain. For the life of me, I can’t recall the tune — it’s the song title that’s stuck in my head:

“I Saw a Man, He Danced With His Wife.”

It’s like being mugged by an earworm mime. There’s no sound. But I can’t get rid of the title.

I don’t know why. I don’t dance.

A well-meaning friend will slap me with that awful quote, “You gotta dance like no one is watching.”

Of course they’re not watching. Everyone’s glued to their cellphone screens — probably searching for the lyrics to the latest earworm fox-trotting across their cerebellum.

Oh, I’ll give it the occasional whirl. At a wedding last month, I attempted to slow dance with my wife. It came out more like a stutter-shuffle.

“You need to lead,” my wife said.

So I grabbed her hand and whisked her to the dessert table.

“That’s not what I meant,” she said.

I think it worked out OK. The wedding guests saw a man, he ate wedding cake with his wife.

I’ve been tempted to tap a little twinkle into the toes. I’ve watched an episode or two of “Dancing with the Stars,” which can cause a mutation of the earworm. Trim and muscled men twirl lithe and graceful women around a polished floor. It infects you with feverish delusions.

“We should do that,” I said to my wife. “I’ll roll you across my back, tuck you under my arms, toss you into the air, catch you, slide you on one side of me, then the other, and spin you back into my arms.”

She closed her eyes and sighed. “I saw a man, he shared an ambulance with his wife.”

It’s just as well. I can’t remember which is our song. My earworm ate it.

— Catch up with Cole’s musings by clicking the “Life” tab at www.tribtoday.com, or visiting the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter. He’ll hum you a little earworm tune.


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