18 months ago Karen Butler went under anesthesia for some routine oral surgery; what followed was anything but the usual swelling, soreness, post-treatment instructions, and pain management prescriptions. When the haze from anesthesia began to dissipate, the Newport, Oregon woman noticed a new and strange phenomenon.
Of course there was discomfort, along with some swelling, and soreness – which we suppose is all relatively normal after some oral surgery procedures such as wisdom tooth extractions, some TMJ disorders, or other corrective jaw surgery. What was not normal was the foreign accent Butler developed as a result of her oral surgery.
Karen Butler now speaks with a mixture of British, Irish, Scottish, and even a smattering of a South African or Scandinavian accent – depending on who is listening.
Does this mean you’ll walk out of your next dental surgery procedure with a similar change in pronunciation, modulation, inflection, and intonation?
Most likely that won’t be the case, as discussed on the Today show interview, Foreign Accent Syndrome only affects about 100 people worldwide.
Foreign accent syndrome is a rare medical condition involving speech production that usually occurs as a side effect of severe brain injury, such as a stroke or head trauma. Two cases have been reported of individuals with the condition as a development problem and one associated with severe migraine. Between 1941 and 2009 there have been sixty recorded cases. Its symptoms result from distorted articulatory planning and coordination processes. It must be emphasized that the speaker does not suddenly gain a foreign language (vocabulary, syntax, grammar, etc.); they merely pronounce their native language with an accent that to listeners may be mistaken as foreign or dialectical. People with foreign accent syndrome may also tend to speak genuine foreign languages with their accent. (Wikipedia)
Butler received a clean bill of health from her doctor following a battery of neurological tests to try and determine a cause of this phonic phenomenon. She’s even taken to entertaining her family with the new accent.
During the Today show interview, Butler went on to say, “I had just had dental surgery,” she told host Meredith Vieira. “You’re waking up, and your family’s making fun of your new, funny voice; at first, you think it’s just a result of that happening.”
But then, she added, “A week goes by, the swelling goes down and … after a month … you’re looking for answers, because you know that this is just not normal.”
“When I talked to my doctor, he said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with you,’ ” Butler told Vieira. “No loss of motor skills, no problem with my eyes.”
“We’ve had more fun with this than anything else,” Glen Butler said. “Her sister came down the first weekend she was back on her feet, sat around, drank a couple of beers, and came up with terms and words to see if she could say them. [We] spent a weekend doing that.”
According to 1stWisdomTeeth.com; Oral and maxillofacial surgery is the specialty of dentistry that includes diagnosis, surgical, and adjunctive treatment of diseases, injuries, and defects involving both the functional and esthetic aspects of the head, face, mouth, teeth, gums, jaws, and neck. An example would be extracting an impacted wisdom tooth or even extracting multiple impacted wisdom teeth.
What foreign accent would you most like to acquire?