Fwd: Vowel surgery: brain op boy baffles doctors after waking up with 'posh' RP accent

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Tue Sep 18 22:27:59 UTC 2007


Vowel surgery: brain op boy baffles doctors after waking up with 'posh'
RP accent
By Laura Clout
Last Updated: 2:31am BST 18/09/2007

A ten-year-old boy who underwent life-saving brain surgery has
astonished doctors by emerging with a different accent.

William McCartney-Moore fell seriously ill with a rare strain of
meningitis last March and had an operation to remove fluid on his

But in the weeks since his treatment, William, from York, has lost
his northern twang and acquired the elongated vowels of received
pronunciation (RP).

His mother, Ruth McCartney-Moore, said: "He survived the operation
and the most amazing thing is that he came out of surgery with a
completely different accent."

The family first noticed the change in William's accent after he left
hospital in April: "We went on a family holiday to Northumberland and
he was playing on the beach and he said 'Look, I've made a sand
castle' but really stretched the vowels, which made him sound really

"We all just stared back at him - we couldn't believe what we had
heard because he had a northern accent before his illness. He had no
idea why we were staring at him - he just thought he was speaking

William's illness began with a headache and a high temperature, she
said. "A few days later he had a massive seizure."

William was rushed to hospital and doctors found he had meningitis
and empyema - or pus on the brain - and he was operated on.

Mrs McCartney-Moore, 45, a music teacher said: "All the doctors and
surgeons thought he was going to die. Before he went in I cut off a
lock of his hair to keep.

"He lost everything. He couldn't read or write, he couldn't recognise
things and he'd lost all his social skills."

But 18 months on, William has made a near-total recovery.

His mother added: "It's bizarre, but I think it has worked in his
favour because we all smile when he does it and it has brought a bit
of humour into the situation."

Phil Edge, the head of therapy services for international charity
Brainwave, said it is rare for a child to change accents after

"Some people believe . that the [brain] cells that are damaged can't
be replaced and other cells take over - so here he has re-learned how
to speak with a different accent.

"It is not very common, I have worked here 20 years and can't think
of an instance where a child has spoken with a different accent after

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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