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Accent Relapse

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"I see you supized I speak Engrish so werr!"
Dave Barry (in a column about depictions of the Japanese in World War 2 movies)

When a character who has been speaking perfect, unaccented English (for whatever region he's in), gets revealed to be a spy or covert operative from some other country, from that point on, he instantly reverts to a thick accent from his native language. A character revealed as a robot will suddenly switch to a classic "robot" speech pattern.

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This is distinct from Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping in that it is not a poor acting display by the performer, but instead a deliberate (and inexplicable, unless the character is aware his cover is blown) thing written into the story. Bear in mind that in works using a Translation Convention, the transition from fluent English to, say, Russian-accented English may represent a genuine transition from English to Russian.

From a linguistic standpoint, it can actually make sense, as maintaining an accent or dialect perfectly is exceptionally difficult until you get extremely familiar with it. Most people would cease to exert the effort if they knew they didn't have to. Makes less sense for a Deep Cover Agent, however — once you get to the point that you can speak the language at near-native level, then it's harder to revert back.

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Compare Accent Slip Up, where a character's real accent slips out when they're emotional or under stress.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Inverted in One Punch Man, when Genos tries to interrogate a cybernetic adversary, who is dismissive of his power in a Robo Speak voice until witnessing Saitama's Super Strength, after which he starts blabbing in a very conventional voice. When Saitama asks what happened to his voice, he admits he was just putting it on to sound cool.

    Comic Books 
  • Wolfsbane from the New Mutants initially had a Scottish brogue, which she lost during the second volume of the series. She inexplicably began using her accent again in X-Factor, which was eventually explained in an issue of New X-Men. Turns out she tried to hide her accent from her friends in order to seem "cool," but no longer felt any pressure to do so once she joined X-Factor.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spies Like Us: Once the mission contacts are revealed to be Russian spies, in the subsequent interrogation scene, they have thick Russian accents.
  • The Rocketeer: The Nazi spy, Neville Sinclair, played by Timothy Dalton, after speaking perfect English the whole movie, ZUDDENLY HAZ ZE GERMAN ACCZENT VUNCE HE ISS EXPOZED, JA!
  • Norm in There's Something About Mary: he even forgets himself and nearly uses his real accent in front of the woman he was trying to fool, before trying to recover but giving up and telling the truth. Justified, in that he was putting on an upper class English accent and is actually American.
  • Done by Ann-Margaret in Neil Simon's The Cheap Detective, when detective Peter Falk tricks her into revealing that she's Russian — she is unable to pronounce the word "baubles".
  • Was supposed to happen with Dr. Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but for some mystifying (to O'Brien and the audience alike) reason Jonathan Adams had an accent even before being called von Scott.
  • Done in Spy Hard, after Dick Steele (agent WD-40) makes love to a woman, she is revealed to be a spy for General Rancor with a heavy Russian accent. Apparently, she doesn't slip into her native accent even in the throes of passion but drops it immediately before trying to shoot Steele. He doesn't notice it, though.
  • No Way Out: At the end of the film, The Mole is finally revealed to the audience. As he is being interrogated by his superiors, Kevin Costner's character apologizes for his poor Russian accent with the excuse that he's been speaking English for so long that he's become rusty.
  • In A History of Violence gentle and likable Tom Stall, the owner of restaurant in a tiny Midwestern town, becomes a hero when he saves his diner from a pair of murderous thieves. Shortly after Tom's heroics get their fifteen minutes of fame on the national news, some mobsters from Philadelphia come to town, telling anyone who will listen, (and some that won't) that Tom is in fact Joey Cusack, a former enforcer for The Irish Mob whose Ax-Crazy... "antics"... used to terrify even the most hardened criminals in Philadelphia. All throughout the film Tom speaks in a general Midwest accent, until he finally admits that the mobsters are right and he is Joey, at which point not only does he say a few lines in a Philadelphia accent, but the way he walks and the general way he carries himself all change.
  • Black Panther has this trope show up in the first scene. As N’Jobu and Zuri are introduced, they both speak in African-American Vernacular English. As soon as T’Chaka shows up, however, they revert back to their native Wakandan accents.
  • Gotcha! (1985): The exotic European Femme Fatale who seduced the protagonist into a spy operation is revealed to be a CIA agent when she loses her accent during an argument with him.
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    Literature 
  • In The Lies of Locke Lamora, Locke drops his false Vadran accent the few times he's completely found out.
  • In Altered Carbon, Reileen Kawahara spends most of the story speaking in a very formal, cultured accent in order to project an air of respectability. When she's under great stress and her facade cracks, however, she reverts to speaking in a vulgar Fission City accent.
  • Inverted in The Machineries of Empire - as Cheris spends more and more time with Jedao attached to her soul, she starts speaking with his accent.

    Live-Action TV 
  • At least a couple of examples from 24.
    • In season 1, the Serbian man impersonating Ted Cofell spoke flawless English with a neutral American accent. However, after his cover was thoroughly blown and Jack Bauer began to interrogate him, he cursed Jack in Serbian and spoke in a thick Serbian accent.
    • In season 8, the assassin Davros, in his cover identity of an NYPD officer, speaks in a New York accent when trying to get a coworker to switch shifts with him, but once it becomes clear that the guy won't budge, Davros pulls out a gun and switches to a Russian accent.
  • Inverted in Blackadder Goes Forth, where a British spy who has been spying on Germany returns and retains his extremely heavy German accent, causing others to assume he was a German spy.
  • Inverted on an episode of Bones: the intern with the thick Middle Eastern accent slips into his actual American accent. It turns out that he was faking the accent to avoid having to explain to the practically Straw Atheist Brennan and Squints why he took his religion so seriously: if he was an immigrant, it would make sense for him to clutch at his roots, but he apparently felt that the members of Brennan's team wouldn't be able to understand why a rational, scientific mind like theirs could not only be religious, but devoutly so. Bonus points for Bones actually noticing that he got the accent wrong. He was supposed to be Iranian but his fake accent was Jordanian. Bones knows these things but didn't think it important enough to ask.
  • In an episode of Chuck, the titular character encounters a British handler (played by Timothy Dalton) who turns out to be the criminal mastermind Alexei Volkoff. When he reveals himself, he suddenly switches to a very bad Russian accent. In the subsequent episodes, though, he speaks with a perfect British accent, even in his Moscow headquarters. Later explained when he turns out to have been British all along, just brainwashed to think he was Russian.
  • On CSI NY, a man pretending to be Jewish is revealed to be a German former Hitler Youth soldier. Even after 64 years of pretending to be a non-practicing Polish Jew, marrying a Jewish woman, and raising an Orthodox Jewish son, he reverts to his German accent when his crime is revealed.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Love & Monsters", the alien speaks English with a rather affected and unconvincing posh Southern accent when disguised as a human, but when he's unmasked as an alien, his accent shoots way Oop North (the actor's natural accent).
    • Possibly as a Shout-Out to Poirot, a supposed socialite reverts from RP to a Cockney accent after being exposed in "The Unicorn and the Wasp", the Agatha Christie homage episode.
  • The criminal of the week in Elementary is encountered by a detective in a hospital and speaks perfect American English. After the cops finally figure out that she's a French national, she suddenly slips into her "natural" accent (the actress is American). Later on, Irene Adler drops her pretty convincing American accent for her natural British one after being revealed as Jamie Moriarty.
  • Grand Maester Pycelle in Game of Thrones, who is a master at Obfuscating Stupidity, spends most of his time in public pretending to be a doddering old man, complete with a weak, quavering voice. In the S2 Finale, however, when he is alone with Tyrion he drops the act entirely, conversing in his natural, strong voice.
  • Spoofed in Get Smart. Max asks why The Mole is suddenly speaking in a fake German accent after being unmasked. He replies, "Vot accent? Zis is my veal voice!"
  • Happens to a German spy who has tried to infiltrate the POW camp in Hogan's Heroes.
  • On Just Shoot Me!, a couple pretending to be Nina's birth parents drop their façade in the elevator and start speaking French as they discuss the next phase of their plan.
  • On NCIS, McGee falls for a pretty girl with an American accent—but the romance takes a twist the day after she shows up at HQ to see him, despite the fact that he never told her that he's an agent. Her accent immediately collapses (and it's revealed that she's actually a South African agent).
  • Perry Mason: In the final moments of an episode, Perry Mason corners a witness into admitting that he's actually a German Nazi in hiding. In spite of speaking in a flawless American accent beforehand, the Nazi suddenly starts shouting in a thick German accent.
  • Inverted in Person of Interest. In "Sotto Voice", Detective Fusco is interrogating a frightened Middle Eastern man who was arrested with a handgun, which he protests was only bought for self defense. Fusco discovers that the weapon was used in a number of homicides, whereupon the man drops his accent and reveals himself as a Smug Snake Professional Killer.
  • Poirot does this once with a supposed socialite who reverts from RP to a Cockney accent after being exposed.
  • More of a Personality Relapse, but before being revealed to the audience as a Terminator in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron talks and acts like a perfectly natural teenage girl. Afterwards, even in situations when she's with people who don't know she's a Terminator, she seemingly loses this ability to act natural and instead stares at people oddly and is generally robot-y in her speech patterns and reactions.
  • American Accents version, in Warehouse 13 Sally Stukowski dropped her Texan accent when Mrs. Frederic informed her they knew she was from Connecticut.

    Radio 
  • Half-way through the Big Finish Doctor Who drama "Invaders from Mars", the character Glory Bee suddenly reveals that she is vorking for Matherr Rasha, ant hencefarth eess eencapable off maintaining her prreeviasly parrfect Amarricn aksant.

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • In a mod for Portal 2 called Portal Stories: Mel, Virgil pretends to be Cave Johnson for a while. His impression is pretty convincing, until his Norwegian accent begins to slip through.
  • In the Clue VCR game from the '80s, Miss Peach reveals herself to be M. Brunette's daughter and therefore French. She subsequently delivers most of her remaining dialogue with a French accent (as opposed to the Southern drawl she'd used until then).
  • In Freedom Fighters, once your advisor with suspiciously accurate information is revealed to be a Russian general, he is calling out to you through a sewer. Your character does not recognize his voice until he uses his disguise American voice once more.
  • In BioShock, Fontaine speaks with an Irish accent as Atlas, and with a thick Bronx accent as himself.
  • When the Spy in Team Fortress 2 is disguised, his voice clips change to match that of whoever he's disguised as. Which is more a gameplay mechanic, but fits the trope because he reverts to his normal accent once he drops the disguise.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: When Vanille first shows up, she slips in and out of an Australian accent to the point where it sounds like it's a bad case of Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping, but after you find out she's from Pulse, she gets the accent full-time, matching Fang's.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Imperial Agent normally speaks with a thick British accent common to the rest of the Empire, but when s/he goes undercover he drops the accent completely. If his/her cover is blown at any part of the story s/he drops the accent once s/he's positive they know s/he's a spy and not just bluffing him/her.
  • In Borderlands 2, Mad Moxxi relapses into her natural accent — the Deep South hillbilly accent of the Hodunk bandit clan — in the middle of an angry rant, then stops herself and tells the player never to speak of this to anyone. In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, the player at one point sneaks into a secret room of Moxxi's bar, where they find her wearing a mechanic's jumpsuit and tinkering with machines (Hodunks are all savants with machinery), happily singing to herself in her natural accent. As soon as she notices the player she stops and again says to never speak of this to anyone.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: Camp Straight Stage Magician Maximilian Galactica normally speaks and acts as flamboyantly as he looks, but that is just his stage persona. He's really a Good Ol' Boy named Billy Bob Johns, with the accent to match. However, he greatly prefers being Max Galactica at all times and only relapses back into Billy Bob when he's too stressed out to keep it up.
  • Danganronpa:
    • In the English dub of the first game, Celestia Ludenberg often drops her French accent when yelling angrily, indicating that it, like everything else about her, is a big fat lie. She drops it permanently after being found guilty of murder and revealing her real name, Taeko Yasuhiro.
    • In the sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Teruteru Hanamura slips into a rural accent (Cajun in the English dub) when suspicion starts to fall on him during the class trial. It eventually becomes so incomprehensibly thick that Monomi has to translate for him.

    Western Animation 
  • When the King of the Renaissance Faire is deposed and hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit on King of the Hill, he immediately reverts from Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe to a thick Texas accent. Even funnier when you realize the voice actor in question is Alan Rickman.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!:
    • In the episode "Code Red" , after Captain America discovers Dell Rusk, who spoke with an American accent (Steven Blum's voice), is actually Red Skull, he rips off his disguise. Once the mask comes off, the Skull's German accent is back on.
    • Black Widow speaks in an American accent when among the good guys and a Russian accent when among the bad guys.
  • In Regular Show, Thomas starts speaking with a thick accent after he is revealed to be a Russian spy.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it's established that Twi'leks speak with a "Rylothean" accent that's clearly French. In Star Wars Rebels, Twi'lek main character Hera Syndulla speaks without the accent, apparently because she spent most of her life among humans away from Ryloth. Until she meets up with her father Cham; when she gets angry with him she slips back into her native accent.
  • In Wordgirl, Tobey is a stuck-up Fake Brit who loses his accent when scared or worried.
  • DuckTales (2017): When the kids find Glomgold struck with amnesia, he speaks with a South African accent rather than the Scottish one they know him for. It is revealed via flashback that he was born and raised in South Africa, but he pledged to outdo Scrooge McDuck in all aspects, including being Scottish.

    Real Life 
  • John Barrowman normally speaks in a generic American accent but will immediately switch back to his native Scottish accent when he discusses being back home with his family in Scotland.
  • Sandi Toksvig openly admits that the plummy RP accent she is normally heard speaking in is a put on and switch to her very strong American accent when talking about her childhood in New York.

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