Friday, March 4, 2022

My Strange Talent


Today’s blog post is brought to you by:

                                      Milton Driveway Signal Bell from Amazon advertisement 

I do not truly know what this item is or what it does. But I do know that it prompted my brain to do that thing it often does for no good reason whatsoever. When I read the words:

Milton Driveway Signal Bell

My brain sang them to Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Ladies Sing This Song”. You know, the one with “Doo-dah” in it. Yes, really. I heard it in my head. Fun fact: this is called audiation. We sometimes talk about seeing things “in our mind’s eye.” Audiation is hearing things “in our mind’s ear.”

I can’t remember when I started noticing this strange talent. It seems I’ve always done it. My brain interprets certain phrases as fitting with an assortment of commonly known songs. The ones that turn up most often:

  • Camp Town Ladies
  • What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence
But there are certainly more than those few just waiting to spring into action. I’d say I was born with this dubious talent but I obviously wasn’t born knowing all those songs. It would be more accurate to say I am for some reason hardwired to make those connections. Instantly. No matter how inappropriate the moment or the association. When a good friend shares with you the name of his newborn son, let me tell you, that’s not the best time. 

Friend: Harold Lynley Masterson*
My brain: Doo-dah, Doo-dah

Whatever limited study I have made of the brain in college classes has never fully explained this phenomenon. Your brain may be one of those perfectly formed specimens filled with highly organized electrical and chemical connections. 

Mine is more like a pinball machine.

The only explanation I have is that song lyrics capture basic speech rhythms. Good ones, anyway. The more rhythmic the phrase, the more likely that I will perceive it as a song. I think. I wonder if anyone has ever written their thesis on this topic?

Here’s a little quiz so those of you at home can play along. Match the phrase with the song:

1. Turn your papers over, put your pencils down.
2. Wonderful trips to Boston Market 
3. Give me a hot dog.
4. Now we’re going to have a treat.
5. In the kitchen there’s a cup beside the sink.

a. Camp Town Ladies
b. What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor
c. If You’re Happy and You Know It
d. Frosty the Snowman
e. Sing a Song of Sixpence

What’s your strange talent? Or, perhaps you do this too and I’m not alone? Let me know in the comments.

*The name has been changed to protect the innocent.

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