Jay Aubrey Jones. That’s the guy you can blame for all the arguments you’ve had/time you’ve wasted over the ‘Yanny or Laurel’ saga. The Broadway performer has been revealed as the voice behind the viral audio clip, and he’s here to tell us which word he actually said.
A quick recap for those who dodged the whole debate… it centres around an audio file circulated on social media last week in which a male voice (Jones’!) repeats a single world. Depending on who you ask, that word is (definitely, without question) either ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’.
The divisive sound bite quickly went viral, and attracted countless theories from laypeople and commentary from audiologists as to why two people may hear the same sound differently.
What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel pic.twitter.com/jvHhCbMc8I
— Cloe Feldman (@CloeCouture) May 15, 2018
According to TIME, Jones was recruited to record pronunciations of a catalogue of words for Vocabulary.com in 2007, due to his excellent diction and knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Like many performers, the now 64-year-old was taught IPA during his studies so that he could effectively learn dialogue and lyrics in foreign languages (useful when performing in an opera, for example).
Among the bank of 36,000 words Jones recorded for the website was “laurel”, as in “a wreath worn on the head”.
Yes folks, the original word is laurel.
So why did the clip resurface more than a decade later? That’s thank to a high school student from the US state of Georgia who stumbled across it while preparing for her world literature project earlier this month. When she pressed play on the Vocabulary.com entry, she observed that the word that came through her speakers sounded more like ‘yanny’. She recorded it and shared it to her social media to see what others heard. And the rest is viral.
This is crazy. It’s 100% Yanny.
No question. https://t.co/KdSa474u5G
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) May 16, 2018
Literally everything at my show just stopped to see if people hear Laurel or Yanny. I hear Laurel. https://t.co/efWRw1Gj0L
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) May 15, 2018
it’s so clearly laurel. I can’t even figure out how one would hear yanny.
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 15, 2018
Despite the Jones’ confirmation, it doesn’t mean those who hear ‘yanny’ are wrong. The different interpretation comes down to the complex way the human brain processes sound. (If you’re curious, you can read more about that here: Yanny or Laurel – Your level of hearing loss might determine the answer.)
The actor/vocalist himself heard ‘yanny’ when colleagues alerted him to the social media frenzy last week.
Still, he remains sightly confused and amused by all the “brouhaha” his tiny little recording has caused.
“That’s what makes me laugh about this,” he told TIME. “I’m intrigued and I wish I could sit people down and ask: ‘Why, with all the things that are going on in the world right now?’”