The Museum of Hoaxes
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Rachael Ray cooks her family and her dog
Cat that walked 3000 miles to find its owners, 1951
The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, 1959
A black lion: real or fake?
Swiss peasants harvest spaghetti from trees, 1957
Lord Gordon-Gordon, robber of the robber barons, 1871
The worms inside your face
Man flies by own lung power, 1934
Bizarre pictographs of Emmanuel Domenech, 1860
The disumbrationist art hoax, 1924
Man hits head - Suddenly knows English
Cranky Media Guy forwarded me this article on about a Czech speedway rider who suffered a concussion during a race, was knocked out, and woke up speaking perfect English, with a posh British accent... even though he barely spoke a word of English before. His command of English only lasted for 48 hours, at which point his memory returned, as did his native Czech, and his English disappeared.

CMG is skeptical. He says, "The Foreign Accent Syndrome mentioned in the last paragraph is a real phenomenon but that's very different from a guy who doesn't speak a language suddenly acquiring the ability to speak it, which I can't see could be possible."

But I'm not so sure. The story has been reported in a number of newspapers, and in the version on, one of the rider's friends is quoted as saying, "Before his crash, his use of the English language was broken, to put it mildly."

Which means that he did know some English. It's very possible he knew more than he realized. Perhaps he woke up dazed, heard people around him speaking English (because the race was in England), and his brain went into English mode. It could happen. However, I'd be interested in knowing just how well he could carry on a conversation in English.
Categories: Literature/Language, Psychology
Posted by The Curator on Mon Sep 17, 2007
Comments (9)
Yes, Alex, the degree of his fluency in English is the key here.

There's an additional factor here, though. Let's say that the likelihood of this story is 50/50. To me, the fact that it was reported by Ananova pushes it over to the "unlikely" side.

Kidding, but only just.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Mon Sep 17, 2007  at  04:42 AM
It was a popular article on Australian newspapers too, though who can actually tell their source either.

The media loves beating up a story, so it was probably not as amazing as it sounds. Like the 'Piano guy', the amnesia/psych patient. He was hardly like Daivd Helfgott, but they loved the 'Shine' parallels.
Posted by AussieBruce  on  Mon Sep 17, 2007  at  01:41 PM
I, too, would be very interested to hear a sample of the "English" this poor guy was speaking.
Sometimes people with brain damage suddenly remember things, or hear music or voices, from many years ago. Sometimes they even get lost in that earlier time. Maybe this man had heard a lot of English at some time and started repeating what he had heard back then?

On the other hand, if he understood everything people said to him in English and could produce atriculate, grammatically correct, appropriate responses, where he was never able to do so before, that is truly amazing.
Posted by Big Gary  in  West, Texas  on  Mon Sep 17, 2007  at  06:01 PM
"On the other hand, if he understood everything people said to him in English and could produce atriculate, grammatically correct, appropriate responses, where he was never able to do so before, that is truly amazing."

Amazing and, I suspect, impossible.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Mon Sep 17, 2007  at  06:04 PM
I ownder just how accurate the report is on how well he could speak English before. The way I see it, he could have been fluent before and the reporter was lied to about his fluency or the reporter lied when saying his fluency was minimal. Or maybe, the report is accurate and he began speaking English better than he could before. This leaves open the possibilities mentioned in the other posts. I think more information is needed.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Mon Sep 17, 2007  at  09:06 PM
Regarding FAS, here is a rather more legitimate sounding story from our friends at the Guardian in the UK... including an explanation.
Posted by Matt  in  Nottingham, England  on  Tue Sep 18, 2007  at  09:32 AM
Matt, very interesting article. And it sounds like it could be the reason here. But, I'd still like to rule out errors (or fraud) in reporting.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Tue Sep 18, 2007  at  01:49 PM
Hmm, I live in the Czech Rep and have never heard anything about this. Which makes me wonder about the story...
Posted by outeast  in  prague  on  Thu Sep 20, 2007  at  10:19 AM
This happened where I live, I actually live a minute away from the track. They reported this in my local paper (Evening Herald) and I didn't know whether to believe it. (I'm only 12)
Posted by Nicole O'Connor  in  Plymouth, UK  on  Thu Jan 31, 2008  at  04:57 PM
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