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Nathan's column: Naming annoying noises

Science, having solved the rest of the worlds problems, now appears well on the way to telling us all what sounds we find most annoying. Surprisingly, not a single entry in the top 11 involves the assembled cast of all those Real Housewives shows.

The work, according to a recent article from Mental Floss, is being done by British researcher Trevor Cox. Since 2007, he has been conducting an online project to gauge reactions to sounds that pierce eardrums, turn stomachs and generally wig us out.

Presumably, had he been doing his research in the era of the dial-up Internet access, that noise modems make when they connect would be a strong contender. He also probably would have gotten a lot fewer votes. Nobody wants to listen to disgusting sounds at dial-up speeds.

Over the years, more than one million people have visited Cox's site, provided a little basic demographic information and subjected themselves to sounds like knife sharpening, fingernails on a chalkboard and what seemed to be somebody rubbing a balloon to make squeaky sounds.

I didn't find that last one particularly off-putting, although I was a bit concerned for the integrity of the balloon.

There is no space to provide written feedback. This being the Internet I assume if there were someone would have compared the sound of open-mouthed food chewing (number 10 on Cox's list) to Hitler.

The list itself is a bit questionable. Vomiting is number one, which seems a bit high. The clip used on the site isn't particularly off-putting, so I assume most of the people who voted were basing their reaction on personal experience. And that they all lived at some point with roommates who did a lot of projectile puking.

Microphone feedback is second on the list, which is OK. The sound of a baby crying is number three, but they don't even tell you what the baby is crying about. It makes a difference.

Men, by the way, tend to find the crying baby more upsetting than do women. They claim it's because women are maternally conditioned not to complain about fussy infants and not because all women secretly hate babies.

Train wheels screeching on railroad tracks was number four, a wheel in need of grease five and a poorly played violin six.

The list claims flatulence is the seventh worst sound in the world, which is ridiculous. If Mel Brooks movies have taught us anything, it's that gas-passing is hilarious. Just ask the whoopee cushion industry.

Honestly, if flatulence was such a terrible sound, why would we have so many places on our body we could use to make farty noises?

As far as I'm concerned, there is a lot missing from this list. The sound of a mosquito buzzing around your ear, a dentist's drill or, let's face it, pretty much anybody else's cell phone ring tone. Because nobody is clever as you are.

But the ultimate? The number one off-putting noise without which no list like this would be complete? That's easy: Justin Bieber.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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