Texas woman has surgery, wakes up sounding British

Lisa Alamia of Rosenberg, southwest of Houston, came out of jaw surgery with a British accent.
Lisa Alamia of Rosenberg, southwest of Houston, came out of jaw surgery with a British accent. Photo

Sure, a lot of us have lapsed into silly pirate talk on occasion, especially on International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19 this year). Aaaarrrrr!

But it’s rare that a person speaking Texan — you know what I mean — goes in for routine jaw surgery and comes out sounding British.

That’s just what happened to Lisa Alamia of Rosenberg, southwest of Houston.

Six months ago, she had jaw surgery to correct an overbite, and the resulting nerve damage led to a rare neurological disorder known as foreign accent syndrome, according to cbsnews.com. Now she sounds like Adele, and it’s been kind of weird for her children and neighbors.

“They’re like, ‘Now there’s no way you sound ‘hood at all,’ Alamia told KHOU.com in Houston.

For months, she stayed quiet, worried about skeptics, she told the Houston station. But after some good-natured ribbing and encouragement from her family, she’s more open about it now.

“People who don’t know me, they’re like, ‘Hey, where are you from?’ ” she said. “I’m from Rosenberg. They’re like, ‘Where is that?’ I’m like, ‘Right here in Rosenberg.’ ‘Oh, you’re from here? How do you talk like that?’ So that’s where the whole story comes up.”

Foreign accent syndrome is most often caused by damage to the brain caused by a stroke or traumatic brain injury, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas. Other reported causes include multiple sclerosis and conversion disorder (blindness, paralysis or other nervous system symptoms that can’t be explained). “In some cases no clear cause has been identified,” a UT-Dallas website on the subject says.

Alamia’s neurologist conducted a series of tests to determine what caused her speech to change. So far, he can’t explain it, according to KHOU.com.

It’s quite unusual. As of 2013, about 62 cases had been recorded worldwide.

British pop singer George Michael reported having a similar problem in 2012, said cbsnews.com. He awoke from a coma after a bad bout of pneumonia with what he described as a “West Country accent.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a West Country accent but it’s a bit weird when you’re from north London,” Michael told London’s LBC radio at the time, the news agency AFP reported.

The condition can be treated with speech therapy and counseling, but it can also be permanent.

Tom Uhler: 817-390-7832, @tomuh