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February 4, 2011

#856: Trochee Fixation

Trochee Fixation

Girl: Robot ninja! Pirate doctor laser monkey! Narwhal zombie badger hobo bacon kitty captain penguin raptor jesus!

Scientist (to guy): We’d been seeing this brain damage for years, but only recently did our linguists identify the pattern behind it.

Scientist: The patients fixate on animals and types of people whose names are trochees (two syllables, with the accent on the first).

The malfunction causes a rush of dopamine whenever these trocheese are heard or spoken.

[[Chart shows “internet” and “brain,” with arrows marked “trochees” traveling both ways between them. An arrow marked “dopamine” loops from the brain back to the brain.]]

The warning signs appear in childhood:

[[Child sits in front of TV.]]

Child: Yeah! Mighty teenage morphin’ ninja power mutant turtle rangers!

Social reinforcement focuses the fixation on a few dozen words.

Guy (off-panel): Is there a cure?

[[Girl is reclining under a big machine pointed at her face.]]

Scientist: We’re about to try a radical trocheeotomy.

Guy: Rip out her vocal chords? I’m in favor.

Scientist: No, we’re modifying her vocabulary* to erase the words she’s fixated on.

*Digitoneurolinguistic hacking! It’s totally real! Ask Neal Stephenson.

Scientist: Either the gap will be filled by normal words, or she’ll just generate a new set of trochees.

Scientist: Here goes.

[[She pulls the lever on a large panel.]]

«kachunk bzzzZZZZZZ»

[[Girl is waking up.]]

Girl: … GzZhRmPh …

Girl … banjo turtle!

Girl: Jetpack ferret pizza lawyer! Dentist hamster wombat plumber turkey jester hindu cowboy hooker bobcat scrapple!

Scientist (off-panel): Sigh.

Scientist: Time for plan B.

Scientist: Someone get a brick.