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This is a children's fantasy story about a magical record that I read in grade school, during the time a certain Californian was president. But I think the story is much older than that, probably from the 1950's.

A stranger walks into a diner, behaving really strangely. He keeps injecting strange phrases into what he says, and compulsively hiccuping before the word "pie". He's selling records, and puts one on the turntable as a demonstration.

The strange phrases turn out to be from the song playing on the record. Apparently the song (about donuts) is very catchy, because before long, everyone in town is compulsively singing the song, and can't do anything else. IIRC the remedy is to play the song on the other side of the record.

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  • You might want to translate your riddle for people who are not from the US.
    – DavidW
    Aug 21 at 3:56
  • @DavidW There are only two choices.
    – Spencer
    Aug 21 at 3:57

1 Answer 1

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It's not SF, but it is a kids book and it's old enough (1951): Centerburg Tales by Robert McCloskey.

The chapter you're describing sounds like "Pie and Punch and You-Know-Whats" which has the following description on Wikipedia:

A new record on the jukebox in Uncle Ulysses's lunchroom has a song whose catchiness is such that nobody who hears it is able to stop singing.

Some bits of reviews and snippets on Google Books suggest the song is about donuts (and their holes) and that there is a simple trick used to undo the song.

TVTropes, of all places, has a longer description:

"Pie and Punch and You-Know-Whats" has someone put a horrible song on the jukebox in the lunch counter. Anyone who hears the song — whether the original jukebox tune or someone else's rendition — can't get it out of their head. Ultimately the main character gets it out of his head by using Punch, Brothers, then gives it to the rest of the town. Now he's cleared but they have it. So, he tells them to sing it to the one person who hadn't been in town. Now everyone is cleared except that person, who now has to be smuggled out of town to keep from reinfecting the whole town. The flip side of the same record causes the listener to get hiccups at the thought of the words "pie" or "Mississippi".

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  • Was planning to self-answer but you got it.
    – Spencer
    Aug 21 at 4:20
  • I remember the story was included in the Holt Reading System fifth-grade reader, Freedom's Ground. In fact, it may have been the very first story in the book.
    – Buzz
    Aug 21 at 5:00
  • I was thinking Homer Price, and apparently that book is part of them.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Aug 21 at 20:52

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