Until July 9th, 2013, Pronunciation Book seemed like one of the most innocuous, unassuming channels on YouTube. Launched in 2010, it provided plainly stated English-language pronunciations for various words and featured a stark visual style. The channel proved useful enough to accrue 25,000 subscribers and more than 25 million views. It even inspired a parody account, Pronunciation Manual, which remains a personal favorite of mine.
And then, all of a sudden, Pronunciation Book went haywire.
For the last 22 days, it has been counting down from 77; this pattern began with an ominous video announcing that “something is going to happen in 77 days.” Each day, the channel has continued the countdown, adding cryptic (and incredibly creepy) one liners before each number. On number 57, a disembodied male voice tells us that “a delicate pairing is a heartbreaker.” The next day, we learned that “omelettes aren’t the only Western food.” If you can put those two together, you are a much smarter person than I am.
Of course, this being the Internet, many people are doing their damnedest to figure out the mystery. A subreddit, wiki, and Google doc have popped up, each one offering all the information we can glean from the cryptic messages. The most popular theory suggests that a media company is paying Pronunciation Book to provide viral marketing for an upcoming release. The Daily Dot thinks each line hints at an element of the Battlestar Galactica world, while Geeko System has attempted to link it to Halo. Other sources have noted how the silence at the end of each video seems to form an image when viewed in a spectrometer.
If the less-than-fulfilling ending of Lost has taught us anything, however, it is to not put all of our eggs into the ‘grand unifying theory’ basket. A middling channel like Pronunciation Book is not a sound platform for a viral marketing investment, especially across 77 days. Instead, I think the fellow behind Pronunciation Book has gotten sick of such a bland service and has decided to have some fun with his audience. The countdown will end on September 24th, at which point I feel the tin-foil hatters will realize they’ve been had.
No matter who is behind Pronunciation Book’s descent into madness, he or she has succeeded in attracting attention. In the three weeks since the stunt began, Pronunciation Book has gained 11,000 new subscribers and a couple million extra views. Even Pronunciation Manual has come out of semi-retirement to provide a few new joke pronunciations.
So what will it be? Halo? BSG? Chocolate? Leave your predictions in the comments below.