Actors and actresses with accents that are part of their persona, such as those from England, Germany, or the American South, often have to work with voice coaches to keep from slipping into mainstream American English (whatever that might be). Even the accents of people who learned English as a second language eventually become homogenized if they live among the general population long enough. Apparently, it is very difficult to keep one’s accent with two exceptions: if the person lives in an enclave with others who have the same accent or . . . the person is a doctor who has been in this country for more than two decades.
My 94-year-old father was recently hospitalized for cardiac problems and a touch of pneumonia. Before he was released, his doctor (who was not born in this country, did not go to medical school here, but has practiced here for more than twenty years) called me to explain the new medications he was prescribing. His accent was so thick, I had to make the guy repeat his instructions ad nauseum and spell the names of the drugs so I could get them right. I did fine until he started talking about hisspern. He kept saying that my dad already took hisspern, but that now he was supposed to cut that down to a quarter of a tablet. Hmm. Hisspern? That drug was not one my dad was taking. Then I remembered that he did take aspirin. So I asked, “Do you mean aspirin?” The doctor got testy, and said, “Hisspern! Hisspern!”
The nurse took the phone from him then, told me she’d give me a printout of the new drug regimen, and hung up. Later, when I checked the list, it was right there: aspririn — 81 mg.
This doctor often has his patients wait for several hours (even his almost-centenarians) before he sees them. Well, now I know why he makes them wait so long — he’s out taking voice lessons to make sure he remains un-understandable. (I won’t even mention his handwriting. Yikes.)