Ellen stops entire show over “laurel” vs. “yanny” debate

A few years ago, people were at odds with each other about the color of a dress, making most of the world wonder if they were a part of some global practical joke. It was so polarizing science had to step in to explain it.

Now another viral debate is raging over the words “laurel” and “yanny” after social media personality Cloe Feldman introduced an audio clip to reddit asking readers to vote on which of the above words they hear. 

 Believe it or not, as of this writing the world is divided over what they hear and it’s even causing some people to halt their everyday lives to argue their point. 

Ellen DeGeneres fell victim to the debate, posting on Twitter:

“Literally everything at my show just stopped to see if people hear Laurel or Yanny. I hear Laurel.”

While Twitter user Colleen Bollinger said just the opposite:

“Wait… I don’t get it. Is this a joke? It very clearly says “yanny” and in no way could it possibly be misheard as “laurel”…am I losing my mind?”

90’s new age singer and heartthrob who’s about to get a comeback, Yanni, weighed in and of course, you can guess what he thinks it says:

“Hmm… I hear Yanni”

Twitter user Robin asserts:

“It literally clearly says it… if you say otherwise you’re just being extra how the hell does it say Yanny I’m confused”

All of this comes down to a science of course and in an article for The Atlantic, phonetician Chelsea Sanker tries to explain the auditory phenomenon: 

“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.”

Feldman says she did not create the tweet that launched a million debates and is currently looking for its original source. 

Whether you hear “laurel” or “yanny”  is probably based on your genetics, but be prepared to defend yourself once you make your choice. Personally, I’m “team laurel” and you cannot convince me otherwise no matter how many times I play it.



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