When Lisa Alamia says the word "kitten," she's not talking about a cat—it's just what it sounds like when the Texas woman says "kidding," a British affectation that isn't an affectation at all, but a symptom of the foreign accent syndrome she came down with after jaw surgery for an overbite six months ago, KHOU reports. The possible nerve damage the mom of three suffered during that operation now leads people she's just met in her hometown of Rosenberg to ask her, "Hey, where are you from?" when she converses with them, even though she was born and raised in the Lone Star State and is of Mexican heritage, KTRK notes. Experts at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital say Alamia is one of only about 100 people who've been diagnosed with the odd speech disorder over the past century or so, which is usually caused by a brain injury or stroke, though it has been linked to other conditions as well, per CBS News.
Alamia's husband, Richard, was the first to notice her accent—which the AP notes "swings between various British accents and a faint Australian twang"—after her December surgery. "I said, 'Doctor is that normal for her voice?' He said, 'Oh ya. It will go away in a couple of days,'" he tells KTRK. His wife's neurologist reviewed her surgical report to see if there had been complications (there hadn't), then ran a slew of tests, only to come up with foreign accent syndrome. "I'd read about it and heard about, but I never thought I'd see it," he says, adding, "Most neurologists work their entire careers and never come across [this]." Although some medical experts say it can be difficult for patients to adjust to their new "identity," Alamia is going to speech therapy but has made her peace with her new voice—even if it never goes away. "The accent doesn't define who I am," she says. "I'm still the same person I was before surgery; I just talk differently." (An Oregon woman came out of dental surgery sounding part Irish, part South African and … part Transylvanian.)