The Internet Is Ripping Itself Apart Working Out What This Audio Clip Says

Sigh. Yes folks, here we are again: we have another mass delusion to pick our way through. Historians of the future will probably discuss the infamous optical illusion dress as an example of how the internet rots peoples brains, and now they’ve got another example to back up the thesis.

This time, it’s not an optical illusion – it’s an auditory one. First posted by Snapchat personality Cloe Feldman and circulated widely on Twitter, the illusion is simple. Do you hear the word ‘Yanny’ or the word ‘Laurel’?

A quick straw poll of the office finds that many people initially hear Yanny, but once they force themselves to hear Laurel there’s no going back to the innocent, halcyon days of Yanny. Yanny is but a distant dream once you enter the elysian fields of Laurel.

Unlike the blue and black / yellow and gold dress, this one seems to have a pretty obvious mechanical aspect to it: it seems like the word ‘Laurel’ occupies the lower frequencies of the sound file, and once you fixate on that lower register you realise what it’s actually trying to say.

The Atlantic contacted a linguist about this – who is probably fully resigned to the fact their job will largely consist of commenting on various memes forever – who offered a more in-depth explanation:

First of all, the clip is, according to Sanker “not prototypical” of either laurel or yanny. It’s somewhere in the middle. Sanker said the l/y discrepancy might come from the fact that the sound there isn’t velarized—the speaker’s tongue isn’t touching the back of their soft palate (the velum), as many American English speakers do when they say an l. The middle consonant is definitely not an n, Sanker said, but you might hear one because the vowel in front of it sounds particularly nasal. People who hear laurel are hearing a syllabic l in the second syllable, which has some similarities to the vowel sound at the end of yanny. Both are sonorants—you could go on singing them until you run out of air, as opposed to an obstruent like p or t.

Is there social media commentary about this? You bet your ass there is!

We live in immensely stupid times.