The boy who spoke . . . Muggle awakes from brain surgery with new accent

Dennis Baron debaron at uiuc.edu
Wed Sep 19 05:18:30 UTC 2007


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The boy who spoke . . .  Muggle awakes from brain surgery with new  
accent

The British newspaper the Telegraph reports that ten-year-old William  
McCartney-Moore woke up from brain surgery with a new accent.

When the youngster came down with a rare form of meningitis he had a  
twang characteristic of the Yorkshire area in the north of England,  
where he’s lived all his life, but after surgery to remove fluid  
around his brain he spoke with the kind of posh, upper class vowels  
one associates with Masterpiece Theatre’s Alistair Cooke or Star  
Trek’s Patrick Stewart.

....

In 2006, the Journal of Neurolinguistics devoted an entire issue to  
this phenomenon, called “Foreign Accent Syndrome,” or FAS, for short

....

Actors alter their accents on purpose, often with the help of dialect  
coaches.  So do politicians. Contrary to popular opinion, Gerald Ford  
acquired his Michigan accent by being born in Grand Rapids, not by  
playing football for the Michigan Wolverines without a helmet.  But  
Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are said to have sounded much more  
southern before they ran for president,
...

Since dialect coaching is slow and expensive, and it doesn’t always  
take, some candidates may try to induce FAS by having a campaign  
worker hit them upside the head with a flagpole or other politically  
blunt instrument.  However, neurologists are warning politicians not  
to consider Foreign Accent Syndrome a quick, cheap fix.
...

Read more about Foreign Accent Syndrome and its effect both on  
politicians and on otherwise normal people ...

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Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

www.uiuc.edu/goto/debaron

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