Apples and oranges: no comparison. Or is there?

“You’re missing the point,” she said. “What you’re saying makes sense in theory, but not in practice. You’re trying to compare apples and oranges.”

“Why do you keep saying that?” he asked in response. “Apples and oranges aren’t that different, really. I mean, they’re both fruit. Their weight is extremely similar. They both contain acidic elements. They’re both roughly spherical. They serve the same social purpose. With the possible exception of a tangerine, I can’t think of anything more similar to an orange than an apple.

If I were having lunch with a man who was eating an apple and – while I was looking away – he replaced that apple with an orange, I doubt I’d even notice.

So how is this a metaphor for difference? I could understand if you said, ‘That’s like comparing apples and uranium,’ or ‘That’s like comparing apples and baby wolverines’, or ‘That’s like comparing apples with the early work of Raymond Carver,’ […] Those would all be valid examples of profound disparity. But not apples and oranges. In every meaningful way, they’re virtually identical.”

“You’re missing the point,” she said again, this time for different reasons.

Chuck Klosterman: Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs

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10 Responses to Apples and oranges: no comparison. Or is there?

  1. What an interesting take on an old cliche. The source could have been an interesting read but I have given up cocoa puffs – – –

  2. LazyBuddhist says:

    “apples and baby wolverines” . . . . I love it. Thanks for the morning giggle.

  3. woo says:

    archie – I’ll have to make a link to the book on amazon or something, you’d love it!

    LazyBuddhist – that’s exactly the phrase that I keep coming back to 🙂 I love a bit of nonsense!

  4. This made me laugh because it reminded me so much of a conversation I had with a client a few months ago. He wanted to know why I had priced his house less than his neighbor’s. “Well,” I said, “your neighbor’s house is a completely different style and vintage, with an opposite interior aesthetic, and a lot twice the size of yours, which has won awards and been featured in gardening magazines. Comparing your house to his wouldn’t be comparing apples to apples. It wouldn’t even be comparing apples to oranges. It would be more like comparing an apple to a bird.”

    “Oh,” he said, and then decided to fire me.

  5. modestypress says:

    When I was teaching classes to people from a variety of cultures (who spoke a variety of lanuages) I used to ask them if there was a colloquialism in their language corresponding to “apples and oranges.”

    Mostly they looked at me in bewilderment, but one person from France said there was. It involved wash cloths and towels. I was left very bewildered. (Short trip for me.)

  6. woo says:

    David – you should have gone with ‘apples and baby wolverines’…

    Mr Random – my favourite french colloquialism is “Occupe-toi de tes oignons” which literally translates as “You look after your own onions” but which really means “Mind your own business.” 🙂

    That, and the adjective ‘vachement’. Gets me every time.

  7. I’m afraid I would have gotten into a big argument with that guy. Apples and oranges may be fruits that come from trees and are both spherical, but geez. They are not even the same species and trust me, if I was eating an apple and someone replaced it with an orange I would definitely notice.

    David, your story made me giggle. I’m not sure I would have fired you. You were honestly trying to explain why his house was not worth the same as his neighbor’s, and he was obviously living in some sort of fantasy world. You could have made it worse though, you could have explained how his house would be worth even less if he didn’t have such a wonderful house nearby.

  8. I’ve always thought the apples and oranges analogy was for when you’re comparing two similar subjects that are both good, but in specific and different ways, and are therefore not worth comparing . . .

  9. azahar says:

    ‘apples and baby wolverines’ was my favourite too. 🙂

  10. woo says:

    Healingmagichands – It would never have occurred to me that the chap’s house would be worth even less because it was near a much nicer one!

    Waxingstrange – you are undoubtedly right. It’s just the thought of comparing apples and baby wolverines which tickles me.

    Azahar – 🙂

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