15 巻 (2010) p. 69-74
This squib points out a certain important aspect of the usage of the phrase no COMPARATIVE than that is often disregarded in the school grammar of English in Japan: namely, the expression following than is highly restricted to the ones that have a negative meaning with respect to the COMPARATIVE. Thus, while The box is no bigger than an egg is perfectly fine, The box is no bigger than the seal the earth/the space sounds rather odd. The reason for this oddity is that it is part of our common knowledge that an egg is a relatively small thing, usually about 2 inches in diameter, and can therefore be thought of as having a negative meaning in terms of size. It is demonstrated through the lines extracted from various movies (e.g., DEEP IMPACT, there's something about mary, etc.)that the same observation holds for every instance of no COMPARATIVE than, regardless of the adjectives that appear in comparative form. It also argues that the lack of awareness of the relevant phrasal property is what makes it difficult for Japanese learners of English to acquire the usage of this particular type of phrase. The conclusion, if tenable, is a step forward to a better understanding and teaching of the phrase in question.