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When a jolt to head affects your accent

Imagine a migraine assault getting worse, and in suffering it gives you an accent. A reward and a curse as well, depending upon whether you are an original or superficial stuff. What if it’s English and the involuntary reflexes triggered by pain brings about a perfect British stiff upper lip!

A few years ago, a US woman, Michelle Myers, complained of having bouts when her speech was mysteriously affected to British accent after a sleep doze had recovered her from the pains of excruciating migraine attack. She had earlier been briefly speaking in Irish and Australian accent as well after such magical wake ups, but then the British accent had lingered on. The linguists had explanations. They called it Foreign Language Syndrome, For those who would rather believe in the mystery of the unknown in our day to day life may not fully agree.

The scientific explanation that rhythmic affectations in one’s vocal cords follow physiological changes in the language centre of your brain which are there because of the strokes or traumatic injuries in the brain.  Those who have migraine attacks know what mess the spasms in the brain cause to your body and how relieving a sleep is if it comes, the chances of which are not there unless there is some recession in pain on the head.

 But a distressful sleep giving you an accent is not what happens to someone every other day.  Though similar cases have been documented across continents where people have been found speaking or as they say, appear to have been speaking in foreign accents after brain injuries. Apart from physiological or psychological reasons, some cases point towards inexplicable causes.

The metaphysical come here. And superstitions too.But then why not? Don’t we see what we want to see? If you don’t understand scientific explanations, then past life theory may come handy.  Like in the case of Rajesh, a 14-year-old schoolboy from a nondescript village in the Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh, who as per media reports in 2007, had suddenly started speaking in American accent in the class to the surprise of his teachers and fellow students.

His English had gone better, and he almost spoke like a native American. Interesting is that he had reportedly forgotten his mother tongue Hindi at the same time due to uncertain reasons. Maybe the Foreign Language Syndrome was undoing the mother tongue from his brain for the time-being.

 But then it was not only about his sudden, inexplicable improvement of a foreign language skill. The mystery was that Rajesh’s knowledge of physics and chemistry too had greatly improved in a single stroke and he had reportedly begun to explain complex theories of science to his teachers like a university professor, much to the pleasure and short memory of the press eyes. Interestingly, this mental transmutation had struck Rajesh, who had come from a family of daily wagers, only after he had been accidentally hit on the head with a brick by his mentally challenged brother.

He remained speechless for three months and then the farrago (to speak Tharoor English) of English and Science had begun stalking him for some time. What happened to Rajesh thereafter, there is no way to know as there has been no media update. Same with Michelle Myers.The lack of interest of western media in revisiting their startling stories. There is no way to know if she still speaks British or has returned to her native tongue. Whatever, news like this with no media follow-ups, provide succour to scores of our movie script writers who have been churning out masala plots after masala plots basing on similar incidents.

A jolt to the head, internal through mental trauma or a blow to the head, loss of senses and again, accidental recovery of memory. And in between, the story happens. Their writing stance is vindicated either way. Scientifically or supernaturally. It’s for you to decide as per your own bent of mind.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

Gurbir Singh

The writer is the author of the novel, ” The Homecoming Gods”(2020). He lives in Puri, Odisha.

He can be reached at [email protected]

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