The most embarrasing thing I’ve done in a while

Recently, in the ED, I was seeing a patient who was left with something of a stammer/stutter after a prior stroke.

It was kind of a long history, and probably longer for the patient, who had to work very hard to be understood through their unwanted speech impediment.

Inexplicably, when I walked out of the room I started stuttering; I wasn’t trying to make light of the patients’ problem, and I had to stop talking for a few moments before I could speak in my normal cadence (and while in the patients’ room I was speaking normally as well).  It was super-strange, like my brain heard the new cadence and said ‘oh, this is how we do it’.  Awful.

It was embarrassing, and weird.  Fortunately the patient didn’t hear it, and I apologized to the staff that did.  I have no idea why my mouth/brain combo picked that anomaly to repeat.  Strange.

Anyone else have this?


  1. I’ve never done it with a stutter, but I have a habit of unconsciously picking up accents if I’m around someone for some time (it’s taken as little as two hours). If I make an effort to really pay attention I won’t do it and I’m always worried people think I’m making fun of them.

  2. Never had that experience however I have always had a stutter problem that is accented since I had a stroke. When I am tired I have to pick my words carefully and slowly. I had one patient who thought I was drunk until I later explained to him I had my own medical problems.

  3. I can’t remember doing it with a stutter, but have mimicked accents before – both regional US and foreign. I have been told that when I speak what little Spanish, Vietnamese or German I know that I sound very nearly like a native speaker.

    Maybe you’d sound like a native speaker of foreign languages as well. Probably not a bad thing for an ER doc…

  4. All the time. Had a geri pt a few weeks ago, originally from southern AL, with an almost completely inscrutable accent, and after five minutes began to unconsciously mimic him. And, horrendously, once inadvertently whispered back to a pt with layrngeal cancer…

  5. Your predicament reminds me of this:

    subconscious empathizing as it were.

  6. Southern accents. Every time. I don’t know why.

  7. doc Russia says:

    Yeah, I started using the ubiquitous Canadian “eh?” after a few drinks with an Ottowa-based USAR team.

  8. I too have noticed I will pick up local accents when speaking, and not only the accent, but word choice as well. I suspect whatever drives this caused you to inadvertenty mimic the stutterer.

  9. Society mocks stutterers by immediatly mocking the stutter. You subconsciously picked up this social cue.

  10. No. Try reading for context. In no way was I attempting to mock anyone.

  11. I unconsciously engage my inner mimic extensively. It gets worse the wider range of language/accent/region/cultures I get exposed too. I can no longer “hear” UK accents except in the most extreme, and eastern european/slavic syntax patterns no longer ring error bells. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad trait.

  12. AuntSusie says:

    Dr Nic and Eric – those are my exact observations. And I’m not a doc.

  13. Charavari says:

    I take on accents. My husband described me as an accent whore once, pick up whatever accent is around…