An Oregon woman's accent has been identified as a rare medical condition - Foreign Accent Syndrome. In 2011, Karen Butler went to the dentist office to get a dental implant. When she left just hours later, she had an Irish accent.
Butler’s case also has a striking similarity to that of Chris Gregory’s, from Yorkshire, Britain back in 2009. Having woken up in his hospital bed he began singing “Danny Boy” in an Irish accent even though he has never visited the country.
In his case the symptom only lasted for 30 minutes, as opposed to Butler’s, which has been with her for almost five years.
According to Karen Butler, whenever she meets new people they ask her if she's Irish. The Oregonian woman, from a small seaside town called Newport, explains to them that she picked her accent up at the dentist's office. The 56-year-old tax consultant's accent now sounds like a strange mix between Irish, South African and British.
Speaking to the "Today" show Butler explained that as soon as she woke up after taking a sedative, she was speaking in a foreign accent.
Her husband said "She went had her teeth worked on, she came home different voice, same girl"
Butler believes that she is suffering from Foreign Accent Syndrome. Doctor Ted Lowenkopf, the medical director of Providence Stroke Center, in Oregon, said "It’s so rare - less than 100 cases ever reported - that the average neurologist, even a stroke neurologist, would not see a case in their lifetime."
Essentially Butler suffered a small stroke, which affected the specific area of the brain that alters a person's speech. The most famous case of Foreign Accent Syndrome is that of 30-year-old Georg Herman Monrad-Krohn. He picked up a German accent having been hit by a shrapnel in Oslo from a German air raid in 1941.
Butler, and her family, are happy to live with it. She says that people find foreign accents interesting and she feels more confident speaking to strangers now. She explained, "It’s just like a new toy.”
Thankfully both Bulter and Gregory seem to be able to see the funny side of it.
Mary, Gregory’s wife said, “All the nurses were trying really hard not to laugh, and I was too. I just couldn't take it in at first, it seemed so comical, but it didn't matter at all because I'd been so worried about losing him altogether...Chris's Yorkshire accent had vanished completely, and he was talking like an Irishman all the time.
"At one point he looked at me adoringly and said: 'You're da fabbest gal oi know! ' with a perfect Irish lilt in his voice. It sounded crazy, but I didn't care. It was just great to have him back in one piece after such a traumatic time."
Similarly, Bulter’s husband said that she is still the same girl, just with a different voice. He said, “If you look at it on a scale of things one to a hundred of things that could devastate a family this does rise to level one."
*Originally published in 2011.