WATCH: Woman Gets Oral Surgery, Wakes Up With Irish Accent

05/05/2011 01:17 pm ET | Updated Jul 04, 2011
  • TODAY

When Karen Butler meets new people, they often ask her where she’s from. And the answer -- Newport, Oregon -- usually surprises them. Why? Butler speaks with what sounds like an Irish accent. But she didn’t acquire it from spending time across the Atlantic. She picked it up at the dentist’s office.

Speaking about her medical oddity on a “Today” show segment, Butler explained that she went in for a surgical procedure about a year and a half ago. The funny voice she was speaking with immediately after seemed to just be par for the course, right along with the swelling and soreness. But as time went on and she healed from the surgery, her body returned to normal and the voice didn’t go away.

The culprit may be an extremely rare condition called Foreign Accent Syndrome, which is triggered by a stroke or brain damage, Dr. Ted Lowenkopf, medical director of the Providence Stroke Center in Oregon, said on “Today." “It’s so rare -- less than 100 cases ever reported -- that the average neurologist, even a stroke neurologist, would not see a case in their lifetime."

Not much is understood about the condition, but the best known case is probably of 30-year-old Georg Herman Monrad-Krohn, who picked up a German accent after being hit by a shrapnel in Oslo from a German air raid in 1941, reports The Oregonian, who covered the story last week.

Some reports have indicated that the condition can clear up over time, NBC’s chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman said during the segment. But Butler, for one, doesn’t seem to be itching for a cure -- “It’s just like a new toy.”

Listen to her new voice (and a clip comparing it to her old one) below.

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