The Family That Couldn’t Say Hippopotamus

The origins of language are not what inherited disorders seemed to suggest

By Elizabeth Svoboda

There is a family living in Britain, known only as the KE family, with a few members that can’t quite say words like “hippopotamus.” They know the words, but can’t get their mouth positions quite right, so their speech comes out garbled. Some family members have a hard time saying words in the right order, and others have trouble reciting words that begin with the same letter.