It is a bit like me - it is unable to resist taking on a bit of other's coloration.Whenever I hear someone with a charming accent that varies from my Wisconsin-style American way of speaking, I start to imitate.
An example:On Saturday I woke to humorist Michael Feldman's Show, "Whad 'Ya Know." on Wisconsin public radio. He was talking to a witty, down-to-earth woman author with a wonderful North Carolina accent. Lee Smith, the author in question, is a born story teller. In talking about her latest book, "Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-eyed Stranger," she charmed me both with her humor and her accent.
I told a good friend about the book and the radio program and automatically began to imitate the accent. I know that if I listened to Ms Smith for a few days, I would be talking with her lilting cadence and adding extra syllables to my words - in southern fashion. It isn't unique to me - this need for exactitude in repeating a story. After my sister Marilyn, age 8 or 9, spent a few days visiting her cousin Georgene, she sounded just like her. Our mother wasn't amused, "Talk like yourself, not like Georgene," she said. She wanted her regular daughter back, not a recording of her sister Laura's child.
Where does this need to imitate originate? Our maternal grandmother, Mary Boehm Probst, "listened-in" on the multifamily telephone line that was the typical mode of country phone service of the 1920s and 30s. It was her entertainment before the time of multichannel television. After a call, she would repeat what she had heard, accurately imitating the voices of any two speakers. Mom said she was a natural mimic.
Yes, it's genetic for our Boehm clan line to imitate - just as it is for my cross-colored tulip.