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Does anyone have a citation for the coinage of this word? Isn't this simply the translation of the German Ohrwurm, or did the translation occur the other way around (English->German)? Maximus Rex 02:18, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)

The word was first brought into English in 1993 by Robert Freitag who had been living in Germany that year and found it a useful expression. As a primary school teacher in both England and Australia he made a conscious effort to introduce the word to as many students as possible over the ensuing years and continues to do so. Having also traveled the world for more than a decade, he has tried to spread the use of the word wherever possible. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:02, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

Earworm is not mentioned in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1970s edition). --KF 02:26, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)
But maybe this helps:
--KF 02:31, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Yes it is, but the Seattle Times credits Kellaris with the coinage [1]. I assume that means he was the first to use the English translation, but I don't know. I'll add the German info. --Spikey 13:32, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)
After reading both the entry and Philpot's article in the Seattle Times I must say that there is a difference in meaning: Whereas an earworm is considered as something unpleasant, even pathological ("Can't get it out of my head [but would like to]"), Ohrwurm has only positive connotations. You might, for example, read about Walter Jurmann: "Er schrieb viele Ohrwürmer." ("He wrote many earworms.") This is always meant as a compliment. --KF 14:13, 6 Jan 2004 (UTC)
As a German I woul like to add that it may definitely have a negative connotation, as some "Ohrwürmer" are just horrible and you wish you could get that stupid song out of your brain. Even in the quote you mentioned, it is not clearly positive. Kind regards, Fuxi 16:06, 31 August 2007 (UTC)
Well, no, actually, I coined it. But, as no one else knows this, you all are forgiven. rowley (talk) 21:43, 15 February 2008 (UTC)
I do not think it is a neologism in English. Instead it is a calque. You can see this as it is not earwig - as English would say, but a translation of the 2 German words ear and worm. To know the etymology it would be helpful to know WHEN it was first calqued, as I think many have just used the German, who even know the term. So actually the wikipedia article is wrong as it is changing the word as used from Ohrwurm and making its own interpretation - that is original research rather than just reporting usage. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:38, 13 February 2013 (UTC)

A comment left here claims that the word was in use in 1978: "'Earworm' certainly precedes 1987. It was used by Desmond Bagley in his novel Flyaway published in 1978. I read the book first as a young man and then again just last year. I've known about earworms all my adult life but it was only on re-reading this novel that I discovered where I had first learned this piece of trivia. Most definitely should be included." If this is true, the introduction to this article should be edited. Esn (talk) 10:48, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

I've edited the intro to state the 1978 book as the earliest known source, and provided the sentence where it's used in the reference. It seems clear that it was a translation from German. Esn (talk) 11:03, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

"Some recent examples" (4th attempt at saving this)[edit]

Don't know about the SF novel, but it may be worth mentioning here. I like lists on Wikipedia very very much, and have practically always voted for their inclusion, but this one here is definitely -- erm, a bit strange. How could Individual A possibly say what tune it is Individuals B, C and D can't get out of their heads? Are there any empirical data where these song titles are listed? Let's quote them!

Most Wikipedia lists are based on facts, including weird ones (We used to have a List of people predominantly seen wearing dark glasses); this one here is based on individual preferences and vague assumptions and therefore is not valid.

However, we can still keep it here, but we would have to add the fact that it is not, and can never be, objective. For example, I agree as far as Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" is concerned. (I do remember last Christmas, and I found myself humming it all the time. On the other hand, this was not really unpleasant.) I am not sure about the other songs. But I also remember a silly children's song which, after a birthday party where it was played over and over again, was firmly trapped inside my head.

Anyway, we need a short introduction to the list clarifying a few things. <KF> 08:02, Mar 15, 2005 (UTC)

Fair enough, it seems the rule of thumb so far is "here 1 second burned out the next" crash and burn 1 hit wonders, meme starters. The two children ones are known fact and repeatedly spoofed because of this, see Shrek for a parody of Its a Small World. Song that never ends is a dictionary example of a cyclical song and mentioned in several other sources as "most annoying song ever". As for the rest it does seem to be rather arbitrary, that does not mean delete the entire list however!  ALKIVARRadioactive.svg 08:28, 15 Mar 2005 (UTC)
I disagree that we can keep the list, unless anyone can demonstrate that it is based on more than "individual preferences and vague assumptions". It is one person's opinion of songs that they have found annoying - personally I've never heard of half of them and quite like some of the others. I've kept the only attested fact - that "it's a small world" appears in Shrek - and deleted the rest. To paraphrase Robert A. Heinlein, just keep saying to yourself, facts, facts, facts. Again and again, what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? -- 13:51, 22 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Just my two cents: I vote for Kylie staying there, that's got to be one of the earwormiest and most annoying songs ever. I could name many more, but that's a prime example.--Snowgrouse 20:28, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Just seeing the words "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" gave me that disgusting earworm. And the article calls it a cure!? I'm tempted to excise that remark. John Comeau (talk) 05:53, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

make a redirect[edit]

At earworms, since I couldn't find it easily (had to go track down memes and stuff.
~ender 2006-04-10 02:30:AM MST

Wikipedia articles are almost always at the singular, as you may have noticed. See: Wikipedia:Naming conventions. Generally, in all encyclopedias, one should look for the singular first and then the plural (if there is nothing at the singular). Hyacinth 10:18, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
Couldn't you have created the redirect yourself? Hyacinth 10:18, 10 April 2006 (UTC)
No account - thus no making any more new wikipages (or I would) - count me annoyed at the wiki-community for limiting anonymous people. Thus no making a redirect myself. I'd never heard of earworms as a singular before reading this article. It's always been used as a plural around me. And having redirects is one of the beautiful things about wikipedia. You can cover all the bases, with redirects.
~ender 2006-04-10 17:22:PM MST

Earworm Collider?[edit]

Has anybody done some research on this?—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) at 22:52, October 12, 2006

Please sign your comments. Ace Class Shadow; User talk:Ace Class Shadow. 23:09, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
The Earworm collider is just a silly joke. --George100 09:42, 25 December 2006 (UTC)
And given that it's a silly joke, I've removed it from the entry. Bricology (talk) 06:24, 5 December 2007 (UTC)

Earworms and neuology[edit]

This page needs a section on the psychological / neurological theories about earworms.
google search earworm neurology, altavista search
google search earworm psychology
-George100 15:16, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

There is some work being currently done at Goldsmiths college in london about earworms. The Minds 2 Music project is investigating it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:49, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

Sorry wrong link, meant this one —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:51, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

Removing memetics category[edit]

I am removing the memetics category from this article since you learn no more about the article's contents from the category and v.v. Since so many things may be memes we should try to keep the category closely defined in order to remain useful. Hope you're okay with that. The link to meme would be enough I suggest. Facius 11:15, 23 July 2007 (UTC)

Bill Watterson quote[edit]

Is it normal for a wikipedia entry to begin with an amusing quote such as this? This one in particular seems only vaguely relevant to the topic. mmj (talk) 06:38, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

No, I've never seen a quote in the lead like that, and it appears inappropriate. --George100 (talk) 17:33, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
It is appropriate, in general. See Wikipedia:Lead which encourages citations in lead sections but does not discourage quotations. Hyacinth (talk) 23:14, 21 January 2008 (UTC)
In this case it is inappropriate since it does not provide the reader with a definition or other useful information. Hyacinth (talk) 23:15, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

'Stuck in your head'[edit]

The article uses the expression 'stuck in your head' a lot. I changed 'head' to 'mind' in a couple of places to hint that it's not physically inserted into one's cranium, but I'm not sure it helps. I think the expression isn't very self-descriptive and sounds like a colloquialism. Can there be a better way to describe it? mmj (talk) 06:38, 21 January 2008 (UTC)

"Stuck in your head" is, indeed a colloquialism, though a widespread one, and therefore perfectly acceptable without modification. rowley (talk) 21:47, 15 February 2008 (UTC)

Not a Trivia Section[edit]

The " popular culture..." section is not a "trivia" section; therefore the "trivia notice" box should be removed. I think the list format is perfectly appropriate here. rowley (talk) 21:47, 15 February 2008 (UTC)


I thought "earworm" was coined in a radio show contest to come up with a word for songs that get stuck in your head. -- (talk) 06:47, 20 November 2008 (UTC)


Earworms are very annoying sometimes —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:38, 7 February 2010 (UTC)

Yes they are. But while this comment is related to the article, it will not help the article in any way. Venku Tur'Mukan (talk) 21:39, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

I agree. earworms are sometimes annoying, but sometimes they are enjoyable, for instance, when the song stuck in one's mind is a song that is enjoyable.-- (talk) 20:06, 24 June 2011 (UTC)

External links[edit] Astralminstrel (talk) 21:20, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Here's another good reference, from the BBC, if someone has a few moments to add some material in [2]. Onanoff (talk) 14:46, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

i use them as an advantage[edit]

If i get something stuck in my head i just start think of the song "i need a doctor" and it blocks the other thing out — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:36, 27 July 2011 (UTC)


There was a flash animation doing the rounds a few years ago where a guy was hearing this song ("ring ring ring [etc] bananaphone!") but no-one else could. It drives him insane to the point where he kills himself, at which point the guy who witnesses the suicide starts hearing the song. I don't know how widely distributed this was, or whether it would count as an "... in popular culture" reference. (talk) 05:50, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

The following discussion is an archived discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: page moved. Note that there clearly was no consensus to support the move from the old title. Vegaswikian (talk) 03:02, 4 January 2012 (UTC)

Haunting melodyEarwormHaunting melody may not satisfy WP:CRITERIA well enough to make a suitable title for the article. The only notable reference to that term in the context of this article is a book written by Theodor Reik in 1953 that discusses Psychoanalysis and music, of which another article dedicated to that topic already exists. Although haunting is defined as "remaining in the consciousness", the term is often associated in pop culture with the supernatural, ghosts, and fear particularly in the United States. Earworm, on the other hand, is mentioned more frequently in reliable sources, throughout pop culture, and throughout the article itself. It is defined in the Collins English Dictionary as "an irritatingly catchy tune". Renaming this article would better reflect both Recognizability and Naturalness from WP:CRITERIA, as most visitors looking for this article are more likely to search for and recognize the term earworm as opposed to haunting melody. GoneIn60 (talk) 17:33, 28 December 2011 (UTC)

Note: The article was created as Earworm and was stable at that title for almost seven years before being moved to Haunting melody without discussion by User:Colonel Warden.[3] (Also see WT:RM: Reversing unilateral moves) —  AjaxSmack  03:42, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose Earworm is a transliteration of German (Ohrwurm) and is a neologism in English. The references for the article do not contain the word earworm in any of their titles while the title haunting melody was the title of an entire book about the topic - the most substantial source we have. It also appears that there's a lot of spam attaching itself to the article to promote the neologism and this seems contrary to policy. Warden (talk) 18:01, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
    • A quick search on Google locates numerous reputable sources for earworm. TIME mentions a study being conducted at Goldsmiths College, part of the University of London. Here's the researchers' official site. Here's a more in-depth look by CNN. Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain refers to the phenomenon as earworms. Is the 1953 book the only substantial source? That doesn't appear to be the case. Can you show other sources in support of the term haunting melody? GoneIn60 (talk) 18:57, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
        • The first part of Oliver Sacks's book is entitled Haunted by Music. None of the chapter headings use the word earworm. The closest it gets in a heading is chapter 5: "Brainworms, Sticky Music and Catchy Tunes". I quite like Catchy Tune as a common phrase but the other two seem obscure. Warden (talk) 21:45, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
          • The problem with these terms is that being "haunted by a song" or "catchy tune" does not precisely describe a song being "stuck in my head" whereas "earworm does. I can say that "She Loves You" is "catchy tune" irrespective of whether I or anyone else has ever had it stick in my head. Likewise, "I Put a Spell on You" might be a "haunting tune" and yet not stuck in one's head. —  AjaxSmack  22:24, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
            • The term earworm has no direct musical meaning. Literally, it means a worm in one's ear and the primary meaning of the word recorded by the OED is earwig - an insect which has a reputation for crawling into the ear. Warden (talk) 00:38, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
              • Except it does. It's in the dictionary. Dohn joe (talk) 01:09, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
                • Where it is described as informal and a 20th century coinage from the German word for earwig. Q.E.D. Warden (talk) 10:08, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
      • As far as I can tell, there is no Wikipedia policy concerning neologisms as article titles if they are the common name of an entity. And there are quite a few of them. —  AjaxSmack  03:42, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Oppose. There is no benefit in the proposed move, for the great majority of anglophone readers. Why make an article obscure, when the current title is immediately informative, natural, and accurate? NoeticaTea? 21:54, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
    • Perhaps there's nothing wrong with the phrase itself. My main concern was whether or not it is the common name applied to the subject. The more I look, the more I find earworm mentioned in one reliable source after another. That's not the case with haunting melody. GoneIn60 (talk) 22:18, 28 December 2011 (UTC)
  • Support per nom. A quick perusal of the sources for the article shows that the terminology is all over the map. "Haunting" is ambiguous when referring to music/melodies and "earworm" is not. In addition, as the nominator notes, "haunting melody" is not widely used. —  AjaxSmack  03:14, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
    • Just to add that, while a "haunting melody" can be a description applied to a song stuck in one's head (among other things), "earworm" is a term that refers precisely to a a song stuck in one's head. —  AjaxSmack  22:24, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Support per nom and Ajax. Dohn joe (talk) 21:20, 2 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Support; it's difficult to argue that a 7-year stable title is a neologism any longer. Powers T 02:05, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Delete. This is a ridiculous topic. It does not belong on WP. It seems to consist of lots of personal essay-like RO text. The opening definition is not tenable. Tony (talk) 03:01, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
    • How you can possibly argue that an article with as many scholarly references as this one "doesn't belong on WP" is beyond me. But this isn't a deletion discussion anyway; feel free to start an AfD, which will likely be quickly closed per WP:SNOW. Powers T 03:40, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
      • The opening: "A haunting melody or earworm is a piece of music that sticks in one's mind so that one seems to hear it, even when it is not being played. Other phrases used to describe this include musical imagery repetition and involuntary musical imagery. The phenomenon is common in normal life and so may be distinguished from brain damage which results in palinacousis." Prove it. Says who? Tony (talk) 03:50, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
        • Golly, an article on Wikipedia that isn't rigorously sourced? Clearly an aberration. Powers T 15:43, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
Withdrawing deletion suggestion after looking at the lit. But the article needs a lot of fixing. Tony (talk) 07:42, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
  • Support – move it back to the common name earworm. There are about 100 scholarly articles on "earworm"; about 9 of them connect it to Reik's "haunting melody" book. There are many more refs to that, but it remains unclear whether he really uses the term "haunting melody" just in the sense of an earworm. Dicklyon (talk) 04:50, 3 January 2012 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page. No further edits should be made to this section.


Is there any evidence that earworms tend to be catchy tunes? Who defines catchy? Greglocock (talk) 10:01, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

The source provided in the article, Oxford Dictionaries, describes an earworm as "a catchy song or tune"; the same source, and Wiktionary, describe catchy as "(of a tune or phrase) instantly appealing and memorable". Common sense suggests that a non-memorable tune cannot become an earworm. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 10:30, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
I know the dicdef says that, the point is, has anyone established the truth of the proposition. That is I am asking whether the supposed catchyness of earworms is anything other than an assumption? 10:51, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps the confusion here might be with the way one defines "catchy". A piece of music doesn't necessarily have to be liked, and in fact, earworms are often associated with tunes that are considered annoying by their victims, based on some of the research referenced in the article. Studies on earworms focus on the connection between a song stuck in one's head and why it happens. "Catchy" is just one way to describe it, as chosen by several reliable sources. --GoneIn60 (talk) 15:38, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
Yes, I understand that. All I can say is that some of mine are not catchy in any particular way, they are just there. Enough. Greglocock (talk) 02:10, 5 July 2013 (UTC)
As an extremely late addendum, a non catchy, and most enjoyable earworm I had for a few days was a Haydn string quartet. Greglocock (talk) 08:59, 1 April 2018 (UTC)

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User:Лорд Алекс has now twice replaced Category:Psychological syndromes with Category:Psychopathological syndromes, with the edit summaries, "'Syndrome' is a medical term. Psychology is not a medical specialty.", and "It can be psychopathological. See Oliver Sacks's Musicophilia: Rose R., one of the post-encephalitic parkinsonian patients". 1) I don't agree that a syndrome is restricted to medical specialties; see its article, wikt:syndrome and others. b) Rose R.'s "musical paddock" was the least of her problems. Her pathologic condition was much deeper. An "earworm", as described in the article, is rarely a mental disorder (is there a DSM or IDC code for it?), more an irritant, much more the domain of psychology than of psychopathy. I'm not going to revert again, or discuss the fate of those categories (Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/Log/2017 December 5#Category:Psychopathological syndromes) any further; I just wanted to state my position in more than 255 characters, the length of an edit summary. -- Michael Bednarek (talk) 12:54, 5 December 2017 (UTC)

I think you are very wise to do so. I fully agree with what you say. Martinevans123 (talk) 13:33, 5 December 2017 (UTC)