If you somehow haven’t already over the last few days, listen to this audio recording right now. What do you hear? Is the person telling “Yanny” or “Laurel”? If you heard the second answer, you’re technically correct. But more importantly: Here’s the backstory of where the audio clip came from–and how it went viral–down to the person who recorded it.
There are a few partial explanations for how Yanny and Laurel became 2018′ s version of “the dress, ” which similarly tore the internet apart three years ago. The now-infamous audio recording itself originated on the resource website Vocabulary.com, under the entry for “laurel, ” defined as a “wreath worn on the head, usually as a emblem of victory.” And a number of publishings have traced the meme back to Reddit, where the user RolandCamry posted it to the subreddit r/ blackmagicfuckery, a forum for discussing unbelievable natural phenomena. The meme was then picked up on Twitter by Cloe Feldman, a popular YouTuber with over 610,000 subscribers.
But Yanny and Laurel didn’t actually start on Reddit. Like any good meme, it started with teens.
On May 11, Katie Hetzel, a freshman at Flowery Branch High School in Georgia, was studying for her world literature class, where “laurel” was one of her vocabulary terms. She seemed it up on Vocabulary.com and played the audio. Instead of the word in front of her, she heard “yanny.”