Last night the world learned about earworms. ABC broadcast The Year with Katie Couric. It was the typical hour-long laundry list of what’s old, new, borrowed and blue about the year 2012. But in the midst of the playback of the year’s most addictive songs and pop artists (Call Me Maybe, Gangnam Style, and One Direction), Katie mentioned a new word had been added to the dictionary to describe “a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind”.
That word is earworm.
Needless to say, My Farmer had a few thoughts to share.
“Earworm?! A song?!” he cried incredulously. “I’ve been fighting earworms since I started to farm! They’re bugs! Worms! A song??? Really?!”
So I looked it up, and truth be told, earworm is not currently in Webster’s Dictionary. But according to Katie Couric it will be and the definition will describe an infectious song and not the infesting insect that literally eats an ear of corn.
In the farming world an infestation of earworms can cause serious damage to the crop. They start by nibbling on the cob, which then causes the kernels to rot. Not only does that decrease the yield, but it also can contaminate clean corn. Buyers are picky about their corn. They want kernels and not dust, dirt, rocks, pieces of stalks, leaves, tassels or rotted corn, which can be the result of worms or insects, fungus, disease, too much moisture, etc., etc. Earworms don’t shoulder all the blame.
To combat the problem, certain corn hybrids now have a trait that allows the plant to fight the worm, which means we don’t have to spray a pesticide. Win! At least I think so.
Earworm is not the only word that has multiple definitions. We hear them often in our conversations about farming and ranching – sustainable, organic, all-natural, conventional, traditional, family farm, corporate farm, and the list just keeps growing. The definition of the word hinges completely on the person talking and his or her agricultural paradigm. Rarely do our personal definitions match what is found in Webster’s Dictionary.
Just another example of why farmers need to join the conversation . . . even if it is about earworms.