I just can`t get you out of my head, sang Kylie Minogue. The eternally chirpy Australian singer/celeb may not have been referring to her dance hit of 2001, yet millions of unfortunates around the world had this very problem. They had all been infected by the virus she had propagated from the bowels of kitsch – the ear-worm. Victims complain of poor concentration, frustration and uncontrollable attacks of sing-along-emia and hum-itis. The latter symptom in particular is extremely contagious and contributes significantly to the spread of dreaded ear-worm.

A German earworm is an Ohrwurm, and used also to refer to an ingratiating person – an all too sticky customer. Spaniards consider songs to be sticky too (canción pegadiza), similar to the Portuguese, whose ear chewing-gum (chiclete na orelha) alludes to the ear-worm irritating tendency to be the last to leave. This is an insect which can stay firmly inside one’s head for a good few hours, if not days.

The Italians and the French also betray what they think of the pesky intruder: stubborn music (musique entêtante), say the French, and an tormenting song (canzone tormentone) according to the Italians. Although the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights have banned loud music as an interrogation method, I still don't know how I'm going to get rid of this tune running around my head (chodzi mi po glowie), as the Poles put it. Musicologists prescribe singing a song of your own or putting on some different music.

Vivian Rumpler (Translation – Andrew Christie)