Imagine going in for a rather routine dental surgery, and leaving with a foreign accent. That's what happened to Karen Butler after she was put under and had several teeth removed. "I just went to sleep and I woke up and my mouth was all sore and swollen, and I talked funny. And the dentist said, you'll talk normal when the swelling goes down," she told NPR. But she never went back to normal, and now has an accent that's "a combination of British, Irish and Eastern European."
Butler was born in Bloomington, Ill., and moved to Oregon when she was a baby. She's never traveled to Europe or lived in a foreign country - she's an American, she says, "born and bred."
Butler could go through intensive speech therapy, but she's digging her accent, telling NPR that it makes her more outgoing. Hers is a condition called foreign accent syndrome. It's rare, and is usually the result of a brain trauma or stroke.
There have only been about 100 known cases of the syndrome since it was first reported in the 1940s. The most famous case was a Norwegian woman who was hit by shrapnel in World War II; she developed a German accent and was ostracized as a result.
Other cases include a British woman from Devon who developed a Chinese accent following a migraine, and another British woman who had a stroke and now sounds French.