Wednesday, November 14, 2018

‘Laurel or Yanny’ Debate Takes Internet By Storm

This week an audio clip prompted a massive debate over whether the speaker was pronouncing the word ‘laurel or yanny.’

Surely by now, you’ve heard the clip, so I’ll just go ahead and ask what you hear: Laurel or Yanny?

When I first heard of this clip — before I heard the recording itself — I rolled my eyes. Great, I thought. Here comes another pointless debate about two things that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for each other.

I immediately thought of that white and gold dress who some, inexplicably insisted was black and blue. (I actually thought it was more of a very light pastel blue and gold when I first saw it.)

Then again, when I learned the dress actually was royal blue and black, I was shocked.

The eyes can easily play tricks on you.

So, too, it seems, can the ears.

Laurel or Yanny? It’s complicated.

Twitter data shows 47 percent of people on that site hear “Yanny,” and 53 percent hear “Laurel.”

That astounded me, because the first time I heard the clip, it was so clearly “Laurel” that I wondered how anyone could possibly hear so different a word.

CBS News reported that the brouhaha began when a Georgia high school student looked up the word laurel on, then played a clip of the word being pronounced. She heard yanny and posted it to Instagram and the rest is history.

It all comes down to the frequencies your ears can discern. If you’re able to pick up on higher frequencies, you’re more likely to hear Yanny. If not, you’re more likely to hear the word you’re supposed to hear: Laurel.

The New York Times went so far as to create an interactive tool that allows you to slide up or down the frequencies to simulate why some people hear a completely different word than others.

Click here to give that little experiment a try.

Who knew hearing could vary so much?

Well, once I learned the trick was based on hearing frequencies, then I understood.

I immediately thought about my dad.

Dad has an electronic watch that for a couple of years had some sort of afternoon alarm set to go off. And it dutifully beeped on cue at the appointed hour.

I could hear it. Mom could hear it. If we were out somewhere in public, everyone else could hear it.

He couldn’t.

It sounded like a normal alarm everyone’s heard a million times. It wasn’t higher or lower than normal. It was normal.

But he took no notice of it as it sat there beeping. And beeping. And beeping.

Mom and I both struggled to figure out how to turn the damned thing off, and I think one of us might have succeeded because I haven’t heard it at all over the last few times I was with them.

Or perhaps I’ve now lost the ability to hear it myself. Just like Dad.

Either way, I don’t have to hear it any longer, so I’ll take that.

I’m just relieved that Laurel is what I was supposed to hear!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.