Tom Patterson, a lifetime resident of Largs, Scotland awoke from a coma of six weeks that doctors said he would never survive. Since then, he has become quite successful in the field of alternative medicine, and has even started his own business offering alternative therapies and counseling. The most incredible aspect of his ordeal, however, is that when he awoke and regained his speech he found he had a completely different accent. The condition is largely unknown and has only had sixty exampled cases since it was first recorded in 1941.
Tom’s new strangely European accent is as alien to friends and family as ever, but all of Tom’s other changes are characterized by his strong will to live and for that matter live to the fullest. Since that fateful day driving with a friend near Loch Lomond, when his car skidded on the ice and hit a tree, Tom’s life has changed considerably. After being taken to Vale of Leven Hospital in nearby Alexandria and transferring to Glasgow’s Southern General hospital, doctors feared the worst for the now 39 year old man and father. Six weeks passed with his condition deteriorating. He had suffered several broken ribs, a shattered pelvis, and some head trauma, but he shocked doctors when one day he awoke. But that wasn’t the end of Tom’s ordeal. He couldn’t speak, walk, or do anything on his own. He was left entirely to the mercy of hospital staff for everything. When he finally regained his voice, what astonished loved ones most was the changed accent which he now spoke with. It wasn’t his own. Having grown up with a hearty Scottish accent his whole life, it was a shock to his loved ones when he suddenly sounded vaguely Norwegian when he spoke. Tom hasn’t been officially diagnosed, but his shifting accent shifts from Portuguese to German, French, Israeli, Belgian, Norwegian, and German. Previous cases have shown patients suffering from this trauma shifting their accents to Irish, French, and English, but these cases are so rare it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause, or reason for the European accents.
Tom says the condition is strange, but doesn’t consider much of an impairment. He mainly laments the fact that sometimes visitors or strangers will consider him a foreigner since he is unable to blend in quite the same way that he could before. After his marriage failed since the injury, he found a French girlfriend and will be moving to France with her in the coming months.
An interesting question to analyze with this is, if an accent is largely an aspect of national identity and a man’s accent can change due to trauma or rewiring of the brain, what other aspects could be rewired as such? Could there one day be a military application that causes specific brain trauma across vast distances to change the accents of its inhabitants in order to sow civil unrest and discontent? Or could this disease lead us to understanding what accents and, for that matter, language are all about?