An earworm is a piece of music that sticks in your head. You hear it over and over, even though no one is playing anything. Researchers say that nearly everyone experiences them at one time or another. I've certainly had my share. Maybe it's an attribute of aging, or a quirk of my construction, but I seem to be more worm-infested than before.
Or at least I was. For some time any music I listened to became an earworm. Rock. Classical. It didn't matter. Hear it once and it replays endlessly.
Earworms are usually music, but not always. Two days ago a new earworm appeared. "Tenser said the tensor," it said. "Tenser said the tensor." What on earth was that?
Google to the rescue. It's one segment of a larger, and deliberately engineered earworm, from a story called The Demolished Man, written by Albert Bester. Wikipedia tells me that it won the first Hugo Award in 1953. For those who don't know, and because my head is full of stupid little facts, The Hugo is an award that is to science fiction what the Oscar is to movie making. If memory serves (and Google will tell me in a minute if it does) The Hugo was named after Hugo Gernsbach, an early publisher of sci-fi.
And speaking of random associations in the aging brain, the Oscar, if memory serves me, got its name because it reminded someone of his or her Uncle Oscar.
Let's Google! And the answer is: Hugo Gernsbach is spelled Hugo Gernsback. So two points off for spelling.
And the name Oscar, officially the Academy Award of Merit has an origin that conforms to my memory (though the story is disputed), as described in the 'Naming' section here.
Another claimed origin is that the Academy's Executive Secretary, Margaret Herrick, first saw the award in 1931 and made reference to the statuette's reminding her of her "Uncle Oscar" (a nickname for her cousin Oscar Pierce).
Ten points off for not knowing whose Uncle Oscar it was.
But enough Googling. Back to my latest earworm.
In The Demolished Man, the story's hero, Ben Reich has a songwriter named Duffy Wyg& write him an earworm that keeps telepaths (espers) from reading Ben's mind and finding out what he's up to. The part that I remember was:
Tenser, said the Tensor.Tenser, said the Tensor
Then I found this, when I googled for that phrase:
, said the Tensor.Tenser, said the TensorTension, apprehension,And dissension have begun
And finally I got the whole story from Wikipedia:
Eight, sir; seven, sir;Six, sir; five, sir;Four, sir; three, sir;Two, sir; one!Tenser, said the Tensor.Tenser, said the Tensor.Tension, apprehension,And dissension have begun.
My descent into earwormery seems to have been halted, for which I am grateful to the earworm gods. I listened to PSY while writing this post, and the song, which has been stuck in my head every time I've heard it, isn't there now.
But, sadly, I have a new one. Sting. Walking on the Moon. In my head.