Home > Uncategorized > “Coons” or “Punks” redux

“Coons” or “Punks” redux

The argument in my earlier post on why whether GZ said “coons” or “punks” doesn’t matter has been somewhat superceded by the audio recording of Witness 9 accusing GZ and his family of open expressions of racism. It is beyond my ken to assess W9’s veracity, but with this issue now out on the table, I feel it improper to continue withholding the phonetic comparison I discussed in the earlier post. So here it is:

And here is the description I posted along with it on YouTube:

I did this break-down several weeks ago, but I wasn’t going to put it up because I honestly believe the common practice of making judgements about someone’s character on the basis of that person having uttered a single word or phrase a single time (especially in private) is ludicrous, unethical, and damaging to any proper civil discourse.

I post it now only because of the release of the phone call Witness 9 in the Zimmemrnan case made to the Sanford Police. (http://tinyurl.com/cjyn57b) This witness, who claims to know Zimmerman and his family intimately, said “I know he doesn’t like Black people, and he would start something.” She adds, “I know his mother. I know everybody and they’re all the same way… They’re just mean and open about it.” Other parts of the conversation indicate that caller may be Zimmerman’s former fiance, who filed a domestic violence complaint against him in 2005.

Her statements, which are certain to be attacked IMHO, place questions about George Zimmerman’s attitudes and beliefs about race back into the forefront of his case. So we’re no longer just talking about one word, but a possible pattern. As such, I offer the above video FWIW. Draw your own conclusions.

Tech notes: I did this in a video editing program, which is kind of a crude tool for this sort of thing. The construction of ‘punks’ came out pretty well. The construction of ‘coons’ is less satisfactory. Zimmerman’s police call did not offer an ‘oo’ phoneme that is as drawn out as it would be in ‘coons’, so the construction sounds a little abrupt. The edit between the ‘c’ and the ‘oo’ could also be cleaner. But I hope it offers a reasonable comparison regardless.

AFAIK, none of the ‘audio forensics experts’ who have weighed in this question have used this method or anything similar. They have their spectrographs to compare things visually, and their ‘enhancement’ techniques that are as likely to mutate sounds into something else as make them clearer. This may be less ‘cutting-edge,’ but it’s technically ‘honest’ and yields a result you can actually hear, FWIW. (BTW, making sub-word edits by phoneme to reconstruct words or make new words is standard practice for Hollywood dialogue editors…)

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. onlyiamunitron
    June 18, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    If I hear it when I’m listening for something else and I’m not specifically listening for it, it sounds like “cones” or “coats”.

    If it had happened up here in NC, I’d think he was complaining about almost slipping on a pine cone in the dark.

    Perhaps it’s at this point that he has difficulty getting his larger flashlight out of his jacket (coat) pocket.

    But I’m hearing to much “oh” and not enough “oooh” for it to be coons or loons or dunes or moons or junes or spoons or baboons.


    • June 19, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      I’ve also done a comparison of just the vowels with repeated instances from the police call versus the mystery word. There aren’t enough ‘oh’s as in ‘cone’ ‘coats’ or ‘cold’. There are lots of ‘oo’s as in ‘you’ or ‘coon’, and lots of ‘uhs’ as in ‘truck’ or ‘punk’. All the ‘uh’s sound similar, and unlike the mystery vowel. All the ‘oo’s sound similar, and like the mystery vowel. Perhaps there are more examplars in GZ’s earlier 911 calls, but I haven’t had time to go through them. I’m really kind of amazed people are hearing something other than ‘coons’, but it seems they are. Again, by itself, I think this ought to have no bearing on the case whatsoever. I did my analysis not to ‘prove GZ is a racist,’ but just because, as an audio guy, I was really unsatisfied with the way I saw people going about trying to solve the puzzle, regardless of its significance.

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