Semantic Fixation

I spent about an hour and a half last night with a word stuck in my head, and it’s still going strong.

“Earworm,” or Involuntary Musical Imagery (IMI), is the phrase used to describe a particular phrase of music stuck in your head. Everyone has experienced this phenomenon, and, more than likely, you have a song stuck in your head right now (Mine is my high school jazz band’s version of “Jingle Bell Rock“).  Radio Lab, a phenomenal podcast from NPR, has a great piece on Earworms, but none of the current literature addresses non-melodic “earworms” like the one I’m still struggling with.

A cursory Google search yielded next to nothing relevant. One theory suggested that after learning a word I find “qualitatively pleasing,” I would grant it a frequency in my vocabulary disproportionate to its functionality, but that wasn’t really the case. I wasn’t speaking with anyone, nor had I just learned the word. Next (after consulting Google, which we all know is a college student’s primary course of action), I thought about recent occasions upon which I may have read the word. No dice.

Use of the word "aggrandize" over the past centuries. Click for more info!

 Use of the word “aggrandize” over the past centuries. Click for more info!

Perhaps the meaning of the word was somehow related to a situation I was in? “Self-aggrandizing,” in case anyone was wondering, was my earworm. I’d like to think “self-aggrandizing” isn’t a word relevant to my life at the moment, and besides – I was alone in my room struggling to do homework! Hardly an example of “enhanc[ing] the power, wealth, position, or reputation of [myself].” People around me, perhaps? I read about Darius’ ascension to the Persian throne last night, but not until after this virus took hold.

Final theory: I wrote an “About Me” section for Tangents yesterday. Trouble is, I only wrote the first two sentences of my own bio, and it seems like a stretch to call it self-aggrandizement. I’m running out of explanations, and I’m still repeating this word in my head over and over. What to do?

“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” – Lewis Carroll

Seems like sound advice to me.

One thought on “Semantic Fixation

  1. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. Here’s the thing…it doesn’t really bother me (except on those rare occasions where the word or phrase gets jammed in really aggressively and interrupts my life). I just want to know what it is and there is basically NOTHING. If you ever figured out what the term for this was, or found any kind of research on it, let me know.

    Today’s phrase “moribund slut” from a Fiona Apple song.

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