Last December, famed pop star George Michael fell desperately sick with pneumonia. He ignored the symptoms for too long, and pushed himself too hard, and ended up in the hospital for five weeks - with fully three weeks spent in a coma. Michael and his medical team were fighting for his life, and he is very lucky to be alive.
George Michael is from north London, and his normal accent reflects that. Here is a classic interview from 1987, which shows Michael's accent (as well as his fabulous 80s style!) to excellent effect.
Three examples of a West Country accent which may be familiar to Americans are Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies, and Samwise and Meriadoc from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here are two Youtube videos from native West Country accent speakers: one male
, one female
. (Notice how the woman apologizes for her accent being "too boyish.")
Doctors were understandably concerned that Michael may have suffered brain damage. People have lost their accents, or gained new ones, after brain damage: this condition is known as "Foreign Accent Syndrome,"
and is considered a permanent or semi-permanent speech impediment.
Sixty cases of Foreign Accent Syndrome have been reported since the syndrome was identified in 1941. Although the patient may start speaking in a foreign accent, they do not actually start speaking in a foreign language, as some people incorrectly believe. Instead, an American may start speaking English with a German accent, or a French person may start speaking French with a Russian accent.
Foreign Accent Syndrome seems to be a function of damage to the brain center that controls how you form your speech. It can be a change in the pitch, tone, rhythm, or vowel sounds, the combination of which sounds foreign in a specific way. For example, if someone who speaks standard American English loses the ability to pronounce the "r" at the ends of words, it may sound to listeners as though they are suddenly speaking with a Boston accent.
Luckily, George Michael's accent woes only lasted for two days, and he has suffered no long-term brain damage.