Two qualities can be compared only if they really exist

In grammar, to compare is to measure things against one another by a certain adjectival quality that they may share.

But note the word element other contained in the expression “one another”.

For it is the entire point. Like all other English comparatives, the adjective other may require the conjunction than in order for the utterer to complete the link between the two grammatical items being compared.

A page 10 headline in The Standard of August 18 asserted as follows: “We know no other President but Uhuru, say Kanu leaders”.

No, the quotation marks did not belong to the original utterer of that statement.

He or she was misquoted and then the quotation marks were fraudulently introduced to enable the culprit to transfer the linguistic responsibility to somebody else.

The sub-editor committed this usual crime against language to enable him or her to “pass the buck” (as Harry Truman, America’s World War II President, was fond of saying).

To “pass the buck” is to try to transfer your own wrongdoing to somebody else in a criminal attempt to escape social censure and legal punishment.

Separately, every one of the words I quote above is, of course, English.

The only problem is that, in that juxtaposition, those words do not make any English sense.


As a rule, all comparative adjectives in English are followed by the conjunction than so as to express the degree either of adjectival likeness or of adjectival contrast.

The most probable Kiswahili equivalent of the English conjunction than is kuliko, a word which, however, literally means nothing but “where there is”.

For instance, where there is (kuliko) New York City’s Empire State edifice, Nairobi’s Kenyatta Conference Centre is nothing but an okuodo (a tick), apparently the lowest animal that the Luo, my Nilotic people of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, have ever seen.

I hear that in Chicago — where, as a stripling, I once spent four years as an undergraduate student — a building has since come up, which dwarfs even New York City’s Empire State, which terribly awed me when I first gave my eyes to see it on my first visit to New York City in 1959.

But I would have to see the “Windy City’s” new edifice to be able to believe it.

Thus the Kiswahili word kuliko (“where there is”) simply means “in comparison with”.

Where there is Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya is nothing but an okuodo (“as short as a tick”), as my mother tongue (Dholuo) puts it.


According to this linguistic evidence, then, the Luo have never seen any living thing as squat as an okuodo (a tick).

Thus any Luo student of comparative linguistics would dare you to name such a thing.

But, in Kiswahili, kuliko literally means “where there is”.

Kuliko India’s Mount Everest, then, Mount Kilimanjaro itself would cower if it were conscious.

After all, you can accurately compare two qualities or quantities only if they really exist.

Properly speaking, then, the Kiswahili word kuliko means “than” or “compared with”.

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