Connecting state and local government leaders

Yanny or Laurel? Three State and Local Leaders Weigh In

Yanni performs at The Coral Sky Amphitheatre on April 28, 2018 in West Palm Beach Florida

Yanni performs at The Coral Sky Amphitheatre on April 28, 2018 in West Palm Beach Florida mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX via AP

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Like any other pressing issue of the day, it’s important to know where local leaders stand—and what they’re hearing.

Not since “the dress” has a dumb question so captivated the internet: yanny or laurel?

For the blissfully uninformed or those who have stayed offline this week, a quick recap: On Monday, someone posted on Twitter an audio clip of a robotic voice saying either “yanny” or “laurel” (depending on your opinion and also how wrong you are). The clip quickly went viral as formerly reasonable, intelligent people listened and then fought with each other about which sound they heard.

Journalists, perhaps while weeping quietly into their keyboards, have delved into the science of why people can hear different words from the same recording. A neurobiology professor at Northwestern University told National Public Radio it’s possibly due to the low-quality nature of the audio file. Other outlets have suggested that age may play a factor, along with whether an individual’s hearing is more weighted toward “high or mid-high” frequencies. The New York Times created a tool that will allow you to hear both words, but if you’d rather just skip to the spoiler alert: the original recording is a pronunciation guide from Vocabulary.com and is, in fact, saying “laurel.”

Still, like any other issue of the day, it’s important to know where local leaders stand. So Route Fifty reached out to a handful to get their takes. Here are the three responses we were able to dig up.

Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin

Via email, Soglin said, simply, “Yanny.”

In possibly related news, the mayor’s email signature contains a quote from Mark Twain stating, “Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

Washington state Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib

When Habib lost his sight as a child, he said he “learned to listen,” so his opinion might carry more weight.

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago

“He's a LAUREL man,” a spokesman confirmed via email.

If you’re a state or local leader, feel free to chime in on this (not so) important debate.

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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