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Of Kenyan press treating Great Britain and the UK as synonymous

By Dex Mumo

I wonder if scribes from Buckingham Palace in England, the equivalent of King Charles III’s state house, know about Chief Kivoi Mwendwa. The Kamba long-distance trader gave the name ‘Kinyaa’ (later Kenya) during his conversation with German linguist and missionary Johann Ludwig Krapf.

How many journalists from Britain know that big historical moment that birthed the name of our country? If that angle is hard to decipher, we can ask whether they know about the man who pronounced the name of the first Commonwealth country King Charles III visited since his accession to the throne in September 2022, after the death of Queen Elizabeth.

But, see, during the monarch’s momentous visit to Kenya last week, it was clear Kenyan journalists have an abstract grasp of their former master’s geography, and comfortably so. Across the news media, the scribes referred to the United Kingdom as Great Britain and vice versa. To break monotony, as is in the manner of linguists, they also deployed such terms as London, Westminster, and England.

However, the United Kingdom and Britain should not be used interchangeably. Let us first be clear with London, Westminster, and England. King Charles III is the current King of England. England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. 

The United Kingdom is a country that consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. London is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. Buckingham Palace, where the monarch of the United Kingdom resides, is in the City of Westminster in London.

What, then, is the Great Britain? Unlike the UK, Great Britain consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and their associated islands. So, it becomes the United Kingdom when you include Northern Ireland.

Well, one can argue that in both the UK and Great Britain, England is the common denominator, and therefore when referring to the monarch, one can use them interchangeably.

That is an excellent defence, until you realise that most scribes needed to learn the subtle differences between Great Britain and the United Kingdom, even long after King Charles III and Queen Camila left Kenya.

Finally, should we bother ourselves with the mannerisms of our former colonial masters? If we must tell the stories of both accurately and with confidence, the Fourth Estate has little choice.

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