This post has been updated.
As part of a promotion for the Universal Studios movie Minions, which will be released in US theaters tomorrow, McDonald’s is including Minions action figures in its Happy Meals. The toys “talk” with pre-recorded phrases, which McDonald’s says are supposed to be in the unintelligible and fictional language “Minionese.” On this point, some unhappy customers would beg to differ.
“I heard what it said and I’m like, ‘whoa, hang on here,'” Ohio man Taylor King told his local news station. What he heard was a phrase commonly abbreviated as “WTF.”
He is one of many parents who reported snatching the toys away from their young children upon hearing what sounded to them like profanity. In addition to the offending phrase, some say they also hear “Well, I’ll be damned” coming from the minions.
Plenty of other adults, however, don’t recognize any familiar language (profane or not) in the toys’ sounds. In an informal poll, Quartz staffers reported mixed reactions to the YouTube clip above.
Here is an isolated audio clip, so you can judge for yourself:
The majority did not hear anything comprehensible; a few said that “WTF” would not have occurred to them right away, but after repeated listenings, they could hear it. Others said they heard it quite clearly.
Reporter Tim Fernholz was outraged that there was any question to begin with: “I think this dude is projecting,” he said, “Besides this YouTube guy, does anyone actually think it says that?” To the relief of all, an editor’s 7-year-old daughter heard nothing but a “chicken sound”: a “bock-bock, like a chicken would say.”
This could just be what’s called a ”mondegreen”—a mishearing of a similar-sounding phrase. But perhaps it will become the next divisive internet phenomenon—of the “What color is this dress?” variety—to sweep the nation. You’ve been warned.
Update: In an emailed statement, McDonald’s said,
The Minion Caveman Happy Meal toy includes 3 sounds: ”para la bukay,” “hahaha,” and “eh eh.”
We’re aware of a very small number of customers who have been in touch regarding this toy, and we regret any confusion or offense to those who may have misinterpreted its sounds. The allegation that this toy is saying anything offensive or profane is not true.