Awwrrright, lemme roll mah ‘rrrrrs’ and see if I can do the yankee drawl. Not so tough. Better than getting the brain damaged. Which is possibly what happened to Karen Butler. One minute the Oregonian was in the dentist’s chair for routine surgery and soon enough she was speaking with an Irish accent. Apparently, during the period of sedation she developed the Foreign Accent Syndrome. It is rare and the “change of accent can be triggered by minor strokes, brain damage or even severe migraines”.
The ailment part of it does not sound good, but accents are a peep into so many worlds, and not just geographical. From Peter Sellers mimicking the typical Indian one – although there is nothing like a typical Indian accent; there is only a typical Indian head-bobbing – to the heavy guttural enunciation of Arnold Schwarzenegger, it can be used to analyse behaviour.
Why would an American get an Irish accent and not a Welsh one or from any other part of the US, a country where syllables dance in more varied ways than the stratified red and blue states? Was there some past connection? Was she drinking Guinness before? Did she have an argument about Gerry Adams or had she been reading James Joyce?
The classic battle, of course, is between American and British English, local specifics notwithstanding. Indians seem to prefer the American accent. It is easier to chase a word that runs over another than to figure out a starched consonant. I know of someone who studied at Oxford and returned with an American accent! Another thing that beats me is how expats manage to acquire foreign accents so quickly whereas those who come from overseas and live in India do not. I have friends who enjoy our food, our clothes, but they do not have the slightest trace of any Indian accent. Take the example of Sonia Gandhi. Even her Hindi sounds like pasta.
Those of us who are still in Anglo-Saxon mode cannot dream of going to the lav-a-tory, although the Brits ought to be happy that their political party is such an intrinsic part of American ablutions. I will also not go according to sked-ule; I’d much rather ‘shed’ the mule to get to the schedule.
But these are nits. The Italian, the French, the Spanish have distinct ways of speaking English that make for rather charming pauses in conversation. And I love to recollect one such with an Egyptian who I had urged to talk.
“Ookay, thawk,” he said.
“Woth thu thawk? Yor olwiss farthing and farthing.”
It was time to indeed start farthing…fighting…if only I could stop lifing…laughing.