Friday, October 20, 2017

Hummingbirds.

RHYS: I have a confession to make. I hum. Quietly, to myself, a lot of the time. I didn’t realize I did it until my children pointed it out to me years ago. Now I’m conscious that I’m doing it. Sometimes it’s a tune I’ve heard recently that becomes an earworm, stuck in my head. Other times I have no idea what I’m humming or why. And the interesting thing is that when I stop and ask myself why I’m humming a particular tune, I’ve come to realize there is always a psychological connection or some kind of word association connection to something that has happened or been discussed.
I think it’s my way of stopping my brain from thinking about things too much. When I’m stressed, I hum. I have to stop myself from humming when I walk through airports, or I get strange looks. When I’m writing a book and my brain is hyper-creativity mode and I want to take a break I hum too. Because the thoughts don’t whirl around my head as much when I hum.

My father was a whistler. You'd always hear him coming by the whistle. My son-in-law ditto. John dislikes this so much that my son-in-law made a CD for him one Christmas called The Royal Family Whistles the Classics. The numbers were all whistled by Tom including "I'm Dreaming of a Different Son-in-Law, Son-in-Law is Coming into Town" etc. We still have it!

So, fellow Reds, do you hum, whistle, have a tune in your head that won’t go away? Have a default tune that hums around inside your skull when you are stressed. My current one is Puff the Magic Dragon. Don’t ask me why. I can’t analyze that one.

HANK: I just burst out laughing! I don't hum, but there is often a song in my head, and I agree, it comes from somewhere. And it's fun to figure out where. Puff, for instance. Anyone you know live by the sea? And it's autumn, right? Anyone bring you string, or sealing wax, or other fancy stuff.
And thanks a lot , sister, now that song is in my head. And I know exactly where it came from.
(Sidebar: I'm told that if you have a song in your head--called an "earworm," by the way--you can get rid of it by singling Jingle Bell Rock.) (And, they say, Jingle Bell Rock does not replace it.)
Worth a try.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, that is so funny! I don't hum, and I can't whistle (one of my many failings.) I do occasionally get a song stuck in my head, especially when Rick is learning something on the guitar and plays it over and over, lol. And, Hank, if Puff the Magic Dragon wasn't enough, you started me on a Joni Mitchell earworm (it was the sealing wax...) so now I'm going to try Jingle Bell Rock. Which I hate. If that sticks I will never forgive you.

LUCY BURDETTE: I am not trying the Jingle Bell thing--the cost could be too dear! I don't hum, but I do sing. Mostly to my animals. The song in my brain today goes like this: T-T-Tonka, beautiful Tonka. You're the only d-d-dog that I adore....

HALLIE EPHRON: I am not a hummer, mostly because I'm so off key I make myself cringe. When I sang my daughter a lullaby she'd ask me to stop. I do sing along with the radio, turning the radio up loud enough so I can't hear myself. And I get tunes stuck in my head all the time. Like the music that goes with the opening titles of NCIS? Aaaggggh.

JENN McKINLAY: Hummer, here! Hub and the Hooligans say I have my own top 40 countdown which includes Me & Bobby McGee, Someone Like You, Redbone, and Love Like a Bomb, just to name a few. I also sing and whistle and had no idea I was doing any of it until my men clued me in. Thankfully, they just ask me to turn it down instead of asking me to stop. LOL.

INGRID THOFT: I do not hum, and honestly, it drives me nuts if someone around me is humming.  Or whistling.  I'm like Debs in that I can't whistle.  It's part of the family lore that if you ask me to whistle a tune, one long, dissonant sound will come out of my mouth.  Interestingly enough, I actually have a decent singing voice and can carry a tune, but it doesn't translate to whistling.  My hubby is the worst when it comes to ear worms.  He'll often say, "you know what song I can't get out of my head?" and then proceed to sing a few lines, which lodge themselves in my brain.  The ear worm that reoccurs often?  "It's a Small World."  Ugh!

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Ingrid, the penalty for lodging "It's a Small World" in someone's ear should be death. Swift death. I would drive you crazy, though, because I'm another hummingbird. The girls and I will often sit together of an evening: the Smithie reading, Youngest doing her homework, and me on my laptop. Humming. They ask me to stop, and I will...right up to the point where I lose awareness of "not humming" and begin again. I've caught myself humming while in an airplane, and I'm always embarrassed! What could be more obnoxious than being forced to listen to your seatmate humming the same three bars of Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 over...and over...and over again.

Actually, I know something more annoying: the Sailor, who's been a percussionist since age 11, beats. He jiggles his leg, taps his foot, thumps his fingers on the table. At least with unwanted humming, you have the option of putting in earbuds and listening to your own music to escape. With percussion, you FEEL it.

RHYS: Julia, I'm with you. "It's a Small World" is the most earworm-likely song in the universe. When we took the kids to Disneyland when they were small that pesky song wouldn't leave my head for weeks, nay months!  But I'm not sure I want to try Jingle Bell Rock either. That wouldn't exactly induce a calm state of mind!

So readers and friends: who hums? Who whistles? Who hates it when others do?

37 comments:

  1. Oh, dear.

    I don’t hum because, while I dearly love music, I can’t carry a tune in a basket to save my soul. [Which explains why the chorus director wouldn’t let me sign up for chorus when I was in high school. I was devastated.]
    I don’t whistle. I’ve tried to learn, but I just can’t seem to get the hang of it.
    I don’t mind humming [or singing], but I find whistling extremely annoying.

    And, apparently, I am the only person on the planet who actually likes “It’s a Small World” . . . .

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  2. I don't hum, I can't whistle, and do not mind either of those.
    But if someone thumps and beats like the Sailor does, that does annoy me. I agree with Julia, you feel it! And no earwigs, please!

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    1. Earwigs are obnoxious bugs. I think you mean earworms!

      Whatever you do, don't Google earwigs now, Grace. You'll scare yourself.

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  3. I hate when I get a song stuck in my head, because it is usually a song that I don't like that plays on the radio when I can't turn it off.

    I don't usually find myself humming, but I know that I do sing along with songs. Thankfully I have the good sense to do it when no one else is around because I can't carry a tune in a bucket.

    I do sometimes whistle and most often whatever I'm whistling ends up morphing into the theme to "The Andy Griffith Show".

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  4. Completely unmusical here - for reasons much like Joan's - the chorus director gave me the tap of death on my shoulder when I was in grade school. It meant I was to lip sync while the rest of the class sang at the year end recital. Yes, I was devastated--but she was right- I can't carry a tune so I limit my singing to the car--alone.

    Hummers do make me loony as do whistlers unless there is an actual tune involved, then it can be quite nice.

    Earwigs only bother me if I can't identify the song! Since I can't sing I always hesitate to ask other people to name that tune so I end up with, You know, the one that goes bum bum be de bum bum.... Yes, after a while you get used to the odd looks. But WHAT is the name of that that song?

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    1. Kait, it warms my heart -- my 5th grade tallest girl in the class heart -- to know another experienced the harsh words of a chorus director: "You, we need a tall girl for the back row. But don't sing. Just move your lips." About the only time I sing with others is in church, the admonition there: "make a joyful NOISE unto the Lord."

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  5. I'm also a hummer, but I realized when I traveled with a colleague a decade ago how very annoying it can be. A couple of friends just were on a writers' mindfulness retreat and Ramona mentioned twenty writers sitting in a room working silently. I know I would get kicked out! I'm always humming or talking to myself as I write. I have been around aggressive whistlers: men with a beautiful whistle who take over the airwaves in a room. Grr.

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  6. Oh, and I'll take a Joni Mitchell earworm over almost any other!

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  7. What is it about it’s a small world? So crazy how that song just sticks!
    And yes, sometimes you just gotta sing out loud. (Like Sweet Caroline, right?)
    Once Jonathan was driving me to the airport and I was singing out loud some line of a song… I forget what it was, maybe “we are the Champions”. Or “shake it off shake it off”. I kept singing the one line over and over. And over.
    Finally Jonathan said sweetheart, do you know any more of that song? And I said no.
    And he said: that’s too bad.

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    1. He wanted MORE? Further evidence that the man is a saint.

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    2. Jonathan has wit dry enough for the finest wine.

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    3. LOL! Hank, I love "Shake It Off" and it gets stuck in my head - frequently. Oh, and Jonathan is hilarious :)

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    4. Jonathan is kind. My husband actually cringes if I sing along.

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    5. Now I'm singing We Re the Champions!

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    6. Rhys, you would have a hard time convincing me that singing along to any song by Queen would be a bad thing.

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  8. I listen mostly to classical music... which seems to me is harder to get stuck in your head because there's no words to hang the tune on.

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    1. *Crosses off Hallie's name from list of people to invite to a thrash metal concert*

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  9. Interesting above--my first grade teacher also told me not to sing--and I never sang again in front of anyone. But I can whistle (the boys can't and it annoys them so much!) and I hum and I sing to myself quite often--I make up whole songs--I'd do that when the boys were babies and toddlers, too. My youngest nephew says I have perfect pitch (he's heard me singing a made-up song when I thought no one was around.) But I still cringe even to sing 'Happy Birthday" in front of people. Damn those teachers anyway!!

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    1. Oh, Flora, that makes me sad. She probably wanted you to stop singing at an inappropriate time, but that's a horrible consequence.

      You should sing, especially if you have perfect pitch! So few people can say that. And singing is such a joyful activity. Share your voice, dear.

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    2. Flora, how sad. First grade! At least I made it to 5th before the "not sing" dictum. Another "damn those teachers" moment: my first grade teacher told me that when I turned around, my right and my left hand switched places. To this day, I have to stop and think which of my hands is the right one and which is the left one.

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    3. I was pretty shy anyway--but thank you!

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  10. I don't hum or whistle. A former co-worker used to beat - they had to survey others as to who could put up with it because while he tried to stop, he really couldn't.

    I do, however, frequently get earworms, usually as the result of hearing a tune or a suggestion. So of course now "Puff the Magic Dragon" is running around in my head. Could be worse. Could be "It's a Small World."

    Mary/Liz

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  11. I can neither hum nor whistle, which is a blessing I am told. I do sing, and I have the ability to sing in several different keys simultaneously, all of them off. Julie was a voice major in undergrad school, and she sang back up for the Carpenters in one of their Christmas concerts, long ago and far away. She has a BIG voice, which is good, because she can drown me out.

    My listening preference is for classical and ecclesiastical choral music. As Hallie said, the first has no words, and the second doesn't really need any, much of it in Latin anyway. Of interest is my ear for music. I know when the second violin in the third row is sharp. And Judy Collins, bless her blue eyes, is always flat.

    But I do sing to the animals. Think "Hello Mudder Hello Fadder."

    Hello Toby hello Penny
    Here we are in West Virginny

    Or

    Hello Pennya hello Tobya
    Here we are in East Livonia.

    Yeah, I know. Bad, right? Hope I didn't instill any earworms.

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    1. I loved Allen Sherman singing about his horrible summer camp!

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  12. Julia, at least the Sailor can keep a beat, I hope. My husband, bless him, does that whenever there's music playing, and he is incapable of doing it rhythmically. It drives me to distraction.

    However, he has many good qualities that outweigh this flaw, including his appreciation for MY singing. When we go on long car trips we enjoy listening to our satellite radio, and I belt out the oldies, of which I know an embarrassing number of lyrics. I always ask if he minds, and he insists that he enjoys it. It does make the miles fly by.

    I am prone to earworms, and they are responsible for many thousands of hours of sleeplessness, or at least they were. On a business trip I stayed at a hotel in Worcester, MA, and in my room was a "sleep kit", which included a CD (the clock in the room was also a CD player) with music by Michael Breus, the "Sleep Doctor". The first selection is a guided relaxation, and the rest are meant to slow down the heart rate, and to regulate breathing. It was brilliant, and when I listen to it it cancels out any earworm.

    That original CD got worn out, so I purchased all the selections but the guided relaxation (which I can do on my own faster), and put it on my phone.

    Ann Mason, you crack me up.

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  13. I don't hum, but I usually have a song stuck in my head. Usually a song I've heard recently, but not always.

    The worst part is if I am not paying attention, I will find myself walking down the hall at work singing the song stuck in my head to myself. I think I'd rather hum.

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  14. I don't hum or sing, but my skeleton has been known to creak in rhythm. . I was a musician and did sing in the choir; those songs and melodies are still inside my self. I do still sing at home, the kid reads the mood based on the tune. Who knows? with the possibility of new 21st hearing aids, I might be able to sing again in public, along with listening to music that is outside my head.

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    1. I hope so Coralee. Periodically Julie and I have the discussion about whether we'd prefer to be deaf or blind, given that we had to be one or the other. I think deafness is more isolating, having watched our mothers suffer, and they DID suffer.

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  15. Julia, I feel you :) My desk is the corner of the kitchen/great room and the Hooligans used to have a full drum kit set up right behind my desk. Ah!

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    1. Jenn, used to have? So no Hooligan is a future Neil Peart I take it?

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  16. There are few times when I DON'T have a tune--or at least a rhythm or cadence of some sort--running through my head, though most of the time I'm able to keep it there. But when I worked as an attorney I was known around the office as the gal who'd be at the coffee station singing songs. Not sure if this was a good thing or not...

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  17. I don't hum. I've never been able to whistle (or blow bubblegum bubbles). And Ingrid, that was just cruel, mentioning Small World. Cruel. My only useful earworm was back in college. I used it in PE the semester I took bowling. Remember the song, Feelin' Groovy? That was my bowling song. Slow down, you move too fast. Gotta make the mornin' last. And I forgot the rest. Oh well.

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  18. I don't hum--I full-out sing along with the radio, especially oldies from the sixties. But I do suffer from earworms all the time--especially when I wake up in the middle of the night, and it is exasperating. It's typically something I recently heard, and sometimes I have to sternly tell myself to pick another song to get over it. "It's a Small World"--thank you (not)! I expect to hear that in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

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  19. Not a hummer but I often wake up with a song in my head. Sometimes it is one I heard yesterday and other times it is one I haven't heard for ages. Then the song plays all day in my head. Worst part is when it is only a snatch of the melody and then I go crazy trying to figure out exactly what the song is.

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  20. My husband is an unreconstructed rock and roll fan with a special love for the 50's pop music of his barely teen years.A day or so after any car trip, my head is full of some of the least interesting but most unshakable music ever (Just my opinion of course ;-)If I give examples they will then be in your heads too.So I won't. My kids used to call them "mind songs."

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  21. My aunt could whistle anything, but I'm lucky if I can whistle for the dogs to come back in. I do sing in the car sometimes, to the total astonishment of any animal who is riding along, but mostly, when I am away from work, I like the quiet.

    Earworms are a whole other deal. I get the oddest stuff stuck in my mind--everything from really bad old country songs ("Pop a top . . . Again!") to whatever the band has played lately. This week it's been the 1812 Overture. My mental jukebox has quite the range, and who knows what will be up on the playlist next?

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