February 4, 2011
#856: 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.]]
[[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.