Earlier this month “The Today Show” did a segment on a bizarre, and rare, speech disorder that sometimes results after injury to the brain. We’ve written about this phenomenon, called foreign accent syndrome, before. But the morning news show shed more light on it.
The case that “The Today Show” highlighted was that of a 56-year-old Oregon woman who went to the dentist for surgery, and woke up speaking with a British accent. In its story about the woman, MSNBC described her accent as “an odd mixture of Irish, Scottish and northern British, with perhaps a dash of Australian and South African for good measure.”
Doctors believe that this woman had foreign accent syndrome, which can be triggered by a stroke, a brain hemorrhage, multiple sclerosis or a head injury. As a result, the people suddenly have problems “pronouncing consonant clusters or elongate their vowels,” according to The Los Angeles Times, making them sound like they have foreign accents.
There are other examples of this syndrome, as The Times notes.
In what is apparently the most well-known case, during World War II a 28-year-old woman in Oslo was hit by bomb shrapnel and woke up speaking in what sounded like a German accident.
There was a somewhat amusing case cited, as well. A Baltimore man, who suffered a stroke in 1990, suddenly started speaking with a Scandinavian accent. But he lost the accent in just ove three months, dashing his hopes that it would make him more attractive to chicks.