Flowery Branch student originated 'Laurel/Yanny' viral video craze


Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

Posted Thursday, May 17, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

For the past three days, the talk of the nation has been an audio clip that sounds like "Laurel" to some and "Yanny" for others. Yes, that somehow became the most annoying thing on the Web since the blue dress/gold dress illusion.

Who was responsible? It all started with Flowery Branch High School freshman Katie Hetzel, Wired reported. Rock 100.5 morning show Bailey and Southside tracked her down to hear how it all went viral.

During this interview aired Thursday morning, Hetzel said she was studying for her lit class and a word she didn't recognize "Laurel" popped up. So she went on vocabulary.com and played an audio clip. She didn't hear "Laurel" but "Yanny."

She told the radio show she posted it on Instagram. Another person at her school posted a poll on his Instagram account. It got reposted on Reddit, then spread to Twitter and YouTube "and it just blew up," she told Jason Bailey and "Southside" Steve Rickman. Indeed, Cloe Feldman, a popular YouTuber with over 610,000 subscribers, gets credit for stoking the social media fire.

“So with this Internet fame now when you go to school here in a couple minutes, you’re going to be the talk of the school, correct?" Bailey asked her.

“Oh, definitely," Katie said. "All the popular people that like don’t really talk to me have been adding me on Snapchat.”

Co-host Southside Steve asked Katie, “So you heard ‘Yanny’, you did not hear ‘Laurel’, and do you still hear ‘Yanny’ when you listen to it?”. She responded, “At first I only heard Yanny and it took me a while but now I hear both. It switches for me constantly.”

Why do different people hear different things? This Atlantic story tries to explain but if you aren't a linguist, it definitely feels complicated.

In this New York Times story, Patricia Keating, a linguistics professor and the director of the phonetics lab at U.C.L.A., said: "It depends on what part (what frequency range) of the signal you attend to."

“I have no idea why some listeners attend more to the lower frequency range while others attend more to the higher frequency range,” she added. “Age? How much time they spend talking on the phone?”