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Update — as indicated in the links cited in the comments, this is apparently a fake. Indeed, it's pretty obviously ought to be a fake, since the word (or character) sequence is going to be ranked implausible by any language model not trained on anglophone trombone-noise onomatopoeics. And Google Voice, at least, is pretty good at recognizing that an input is music (including trombone playing) rather than voice.

Update #2 — Ben Zimmer in the comments links to Paul The Trombonist's YouTube demo defending himself:

He doesn't specify what app he's using — I tried playing the demo to several ASR systems, and none of them responded with "Woo woo" or similar transcriptions — in fact Google Assistant's response was

debug OK
That was weird

[h/t Bob Shackleton]


  1. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 9:27 am

    Didn't the same thing go round a year or two ago? (Except that it might have been a saxophone or something then.)

  2. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 9:29 am

    A tuba. I had tried searching, but hadn't found the right instrument!

  3. languagehat said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 9:53 am

    It's fake; see the comments here.

  4. Bill Benzon said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 10:55 am

    Hmmmm….I could try this with a trumpet, or with a cowbell. And then run it through Google translate.

  5. S Frankel said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 11:36 am

    We could use this technique to answer the age-old question, which instrument sounds closest to the human voice? (My guess is a kazoo.)

  6. Tim May said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

    For that matter, it was covered on this blog last year: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=29419

  7. tangent said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 8:06 pm

    For that matter, it was previously debunked by Mark Liberman.

  8. Emily said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 10:27 pm

    The older one has a sinister hidden message among the woops and woos: "Google… world war… who killed… get glue… will do will do."

    I wonder what speech recognition software would make of the barred owl's call (often transcribed as "who cooks for you?"). Or this.

  9. Ben Zimmer said,

    November 24, 2017 @ 11:31 pm

    Paul the Trombonist defends himself on YouTube (via Open Culture).

  10. L said,

    November 27, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

    A lot of people saying "fake," but I read it and thought "joke."

    But with the follow-up video, I'm not so sure.

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