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Acquiring a British Accent Without Being Annoying

May 4, 2011

You know those people who spend a month in a foreign country and believe this makes them an expert on all things concerning said country? And they start spelling “color” as “colour” and calling their apartment a flat. Or someone watches a documentary about Mark Twain and now every single situation reminds them of their favorite author.

Man! When that cashier tried to charge us twice for one box of Snickers ice cream bars, it reminded me of the time Mark Twain swam across the Mississippi River because he forgot a bag of peanuts on the other side and the ferry wouldn’t take him back to get it.”*

[This would be the part where they receive a blank stare.]

Their sole purpose in life seems to become getting people to ask them about their time in that country, or asking them how they know so much about Mark Twain.

Perhaps the worst is when people incorporate an accent that is clearly not theirs. They start talking about Mexican food and suddenly pronounce each food item as though they’re speaking their native tongue, rather than English with a redneck accent.

I enjoy burritos, but fajitas and quesadillas are my favorites. But nothing beats chili relleno when made properly.”

I was going to say something about nothing beats giving these people a beat down, but I’m going to choose peace instead.

But what if—just what if!–there were such a thing as foreign accent syndrome? A syndrome in which you suddenly have an accent you never had. Well, my would-be British friends, such a thing exists and Karen Butler of Oregon is living proof.

Butler had dental surgery and woke up with a British accent, which is a way better story than waking up and having the wrong limb removed. She developed the syndrome in late 2009 and she still has the accent.

So there you go—something to look forward to the next time you go to the dentist. You could become the sixty-first known person to have this syndrome.**

*This is a totally made up story about Mark Twain.

**Do I get a prize for writing the most roundabout blog post just so I could link to an interesting news story? No? Oh well–still a cool story.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 4, 2011 5:19 pm

    I think it’s part of the American guilt for not knowing more than one language. We just make up for it by faking accents like bad actors.

    I’d like to see a linguist’s take on what happened. I’m pretty sure it has to do with how her tongue hits the inside of her mouth differently, considering how she spent 40-something years talking one way, now she would have difficulty relearning how to speak. Easier solution: play up your new accent.

  2. Heather Coates permalink
    May 18, 2011 7:53 pm

    I roll my Rs when I order mexican foods at actual mexican restaurants. Not Taco Bell, it doesn’t count.

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