• Lynda Cohen

Atlantic City native is voice behind the Laurel-Yanny debate

Updated: 5 days ago

An Atlantic City native is at the center of the biggest Internet debate since the colors of “that dress.” Jay Aubrey Jones is the voice behind the Laurel-Yanny debate. “It didn’t even register to me that it was my voice that said this,” he told BreakingAC. Jones moved to New York in 1976, having grown up on Atlantic City’s Northside, at a home on Arctic and Indiana avenues. “It’s so funny,” he said of the new attention Friday. “I haven’t laughed so much at anything in the news ever. I don’t believe I’m involved in this.” The 1972 Atlantic City High School graduate has an acting career that spans more than four decades and includes Broadway, television and a two-year stint as a soloist with Metropolitan Opera. But international — and viral internet— fame came with one word of about 36,000 uttered 11 years ago while recording for vocabulary.com. When the controversy began, he had no idea he was part of it. He was heading to a temp job with the “Today” show on in the background, when he heard a bit about it. At work a couple of hours later, he got an insistent text from vocabulary.com producer Mark Tinkler, who wanted him to call right away. Tinkler asked if he’d heard about it. “You do realize that you said this, right?” Tinkler asked him. Jones didn’t. He really remembers only one recording: Ethel Merman. “Typical for a guy who’s worked in musicals,” Jones says. For the record, the word is “Laurel.” A tool posted by the New York Times allowed him to strip away the bass, and hear “Yanny.” “To me, it sounds like I’ve been inhaling helium,” he said. He’s excited about the talk of language and how people hear words sparked by the debate over which word people hear. “What’s amazing about this is how differently we hear things, how we process language and how technology has changed our perception of language,” Jones said. And, it brought him calls from his past and calls from major news organizations. Even audiologists have reached out. On Friday, he was doing an interview with Australia’s version of the “Today” show, “Sunrise.” “The power of this thing is just, at times, overwhelming,” he said. “I have to look at all this with a sort of bemused attitude. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on my career at all.” It’s already listed as a “Did you know?” point on his IMDB.com page. And the debate has gotten serious. Posts on his Facebook page include people asking him to settle it for them. “It’s causing marital strife,” one wrote. As for that dress debate, Jones has his own view on that: “It’s white with gold stripes.”

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