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Comparing apples and oranges

  • The idiom comparing apples and oranges has its roots in another idiom, popular during Shakespeare’s time. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, on the ball, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom comparing apples and oranges, where this phrase came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


     

    The idiom comparing apples and oranges means that one is trying to draw similarities between two things that are not similar. Though one may argue that apples and oranges are both fruit, they do not look, taste, feel, or smell the same. The expression comparing apples and oranges came into use in the 1800s, though the popularity of the term increased during the latter half of the twentieth century. The idiom has its roots in an older phrase, comparing apples and oysters, which may be found in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew: “As much as an apple doth an oyster, and all one.” The phrase is rendered in other languages such as German, Spanish, and Swedish as comparing apples and pears. The idiom comparing apples and oranges is sometimes seen as comparing apples to oranges. Related phrases are compare apples and oranges, compares apples and oranges, compared apples and oranges.

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    Examples

    Now, you might be thinking, “You’re comparing apples and oranges!” (The Federalist)

    But Arthur Schwartz, who represents the block associations and is himself a 12th Street resident, told the Post that the agencies and advocates are comparing apples and oranges. (The New York Post)

    If you’re using a score to monitor your credit, it’s important to use the same kind from the same bureau — otherwise you’re comparing apples and oranges, as we say in English. (The Los Angeles Times)

    Wingert said that while it is true that the same power bank at the Chehalis Substation was involved in both outages, it would be similar to comparing apples and oranges. (The Centralia Chronicle)


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