Is that Grover from Sesame Street dropping the F-bomb? It depends on how you listen to it.
This week, a viral clip started making the rounds on the internet that has recalled the great “Yanny or Laurel?” debate of internet past. In the six-second video clip, Grover from Sesame Street is heard saying, “Yes, yes, that sounds like an excellent idea.” But as CNET noted, some people heard something very different.
“Yes, yes, that’s a f***ing excellent idea,” others heard the Sesame Street character say.
The clip was shared on Reddit, where the responses were pretty evenly divided among those who heard it the clean way and others who swear they head the Muppet drop the F-bomb during a children’s show.
Then, there were some who heard it both ways.
“I couldn’t hear the non-swearing version until I was looking at the sentence in the title, and now I can’t hear the swearing until I read THAT as I’m listening! Stupid confused brain…bah!” noted one of the top comments on the Reddit thread.
The debate reminded many over the other viral audio clip from earlier this year that had a man saying the word “Laurel”… or “Yanny,” depending on what each given person heard. With opinions again equally split, experts said it actually just came down to the low audio quality of the clip and the particular speakers that the person was listening to for the clip.
“There’s just enough ambiguity in this fairly low-quality recording that [some] people are hearing it one way and some people are hearing it another,” Brad Story, the associate department head of speech, language, and hearing sciences at Arizona State University, said in an interview with Vox.
Story explained that humans hear three different frequencies when listening to speech, and the lowest of these is the key to discerning the “L” sounds from the “R” sounds. When audio quality is too low, those can be muddled, he explained.
“So when you’re listening to ‘Laurel,’ the reason you get L, R, and L is because of the movement of that third frequency,” he said.
The New York Times even created a tool that smoothed out the audio difference and allowed people to hear both “Yanny” and “Laurel” at the same time.
It’s not clear if the clip of Grover appearing to drop the F-bomb has a similar explanation. CNET reached out the the Sesame Street Workshop for a comment, but did not hear back.