Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mimicry Is The Best Form Of Flattery

It has recently come to my attention that I may have the psychological syndrome called FAS (Foreign Accent Syndrome). This is a real thing, seemingly, as I did a quick Google search on it. The back story here is that my daughter recently scolded me: She said, "When you talk to someone with an accent you adopt their accent into your response to them."

And she would be right.

I know I am doing it at times and at times I a am completely unaware I am doing it. Like last month when we were doing the buying for The Candy Bar in New York City and I was conversing with a gentleman who had a heavy Latin accent. Evidently, in my responses, I intoned the nuances of this gentleman's specific vernacular into my speech. And she called me on it. Again, she would be right and I'm not quite sure why I do it. I've done it before, a bunch of times, but none more specifically than when I was traveling in Europe or I am speaking to someone with a strong accented speech pattern. I have even opened a conversation in Paris with a simple, "Bonjour" to which the person I am talking to assumes I am French speaking and will respond in a long response in French which I do not understand at all.

Upon closer inspection I may be suffering from "the chameleon effect" instead of FAS-which can medically be the result of a brain trauma. The chameleon effect is said to be subconscious and more like "mimicking". Many famous people have been criticized in the media for it. Madonna, Oprah and Tony Blair have all been condemn for changing their accents to suit their audience. Scientists and researchers are actually studying this phenomenon. "Researchers who made the discovery believe accent mimicry is part of the brain's in-built urge to 'empathize and affiliate' with other people."

So it would seem that I am not alone or even "weird" as my first born would lead me to believe. It would seem I am in good company. Bottom line is I'm not crazy or brain damaged. Maybe I'm just deploying a useful strategy. By adopting some of the speech patterns I hear, deep down, what I could really be trying to say to you is "I hear ya...and I understand you completely."


MarkD60 said...

I can see how that might get you in trouble. Now I'll have to watch and see if I do it.

Scope said...

I am quick to pick up an accent. Not that quick. But if I'm up visiting my Canadian cousins for any length of time, well, you know, eh?