Before being sedated for an oral surgery a year and a half ago, Karen Butler's speech sounded just like anyone else's in her hometown of Newport, Ore. But when she woke up, she was pronouncing her words in a blend of European accents -- a little British, a little Irish, and maybe a touch Russian or Romanian.
Butler and her strange new accent appeared on TODAY this morning, telling the anchors that the first thing she's now asked is, "Where are you from? Where did you get that accent?" She'll answer, "I got it from here. ... Oregon. They think I say, "Ireland," but I'm saying, "Oregon."
She may have an extremely rare condition called foreign accent syndrome -- so rare that less than 100 cases have ever been reported. Foreign accent syndrome happens to be a favorite Body Odd topic: Last year, we covered the case of Robin Vanderlip, a Virginia woman who suddenly developed a foreign accent after fell and hit her head at a 4-H youth conference. And one of our earliest posts -- from Mark Leyner and Dr. Billy Goldberg, the authors of the best-selling "Why Do Men Have Nipples? Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini" -- covered the condition in more detail:
According to a recent article in the Journal of Neurolinguistics, "foreign accent syndrome" is something of a misnomer. Following a stroke or severe brain injury, these patients don't actually manifest a speech pattern that corresponds to any particular language. What's going on is that they are displaying changes in the rhythms, stresses and intonations of their speech that listeners mistakenly ascribe to a new and different accent. Most cases of "foreign accent syndrome" are associated with injuries to the left hemisphere of the brain, which is associated with language.
OK, so it's rare. But if you woke up speaking with a foreign accent -- what would you hope it would be? Irish? Australian? South African? Tell us below.
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