I wanted to hear ‘laurel’, but alas, I'm a ‘yanny’ man

Ideas

I wanted to hear ‘laurel’, but alas, I'm a ‘yanny’ man

The latest Internet oddity reminds us that what we hear, and how we hear it, is smoke and gossamer

Columnist

So which was it? Did you hear “yanny” or “laurel”?
Just when we thought it was safe to trust our senses, the Internet is back with a new sensory oddity to prove that everything is smoke and gossamer.
I like to think of myself as a fairly open-minded guy. In 2015, I saw a gold dress AND a blue dress. I like cats and dogs, even though dogs are, obviously, superior in every single way to the parasite-spewing, fauna-obliterating fur-robots you refer to as “cats”.Which is why I tried to hear “laurel”. Millions of people had heard “laurel”, I told myself, so it really was in there, somewhere, hidden behind the sounds that so clearly and so loudly said “yanny”. Alas, I got nothing. I’m a “yanny” man, through and through.
According to the 15-second animated explanation I saw, which was based on a vlogger talking to a blogger who’d talked to a journalist who’d talked to a scientist, it’s all about frequency. Somewhere between bat sonar and elephant rumbles lies the truth, and whether it’s “yanny” or “laurel” depends entirely on how your ears and brain talk to each other.Of course, none of this should be news to anyone who’s ever had a conversation with another human being.
For example, when someone tells me: “You’re a moron,” all I can hear is: “I concede that you have won this argument.” Likewise, when I hear somebody saying: “The world has never been in a worse state,” I can distinctly hear them saying: “No, I don’t read non-fiction, why do you ask?”
It also goes the other way. When I used to say: “Jacob Zuma is a terrible president,” some people would hear the words: “I hate black people and want a return to apartheid”. And this week, when I said: “Apartheid was a crime against humanity,” some people claim they heard me say: “I hate white people and especially Afrikaners.”
Yes, it’s strange how we hear what we hear. It’s even stranger why we hear what we hear. Frequencies. Then again, isn’t that the way with all things?

This article is reserved for Times Select subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Times Select content.

Times Select

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email helpdesk@timeslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00.

Previous Article