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Comparing Apples and Oranges

January 20, 2017

During the election, and later over the holidays, I overheard many conversations about politics. People were comparing presidential candidates. Someone said, “They’re all so different! It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”


I’ve heard that apples and oranges reference my whole life and I just don’t get it. When I was small it was right up there with: Six of one, half dozen of another, which I didn’t understand as a kid but now makes perfect sense. Another strange one was: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Growing up I never saw a horse or a beggar in our neighborhood. But why has the comparison of apples and oranges become such a common term to signify two dissimilar things?


In fact, apples and oranges have quite a few similarities. Both are round. They’re both vitamin-supplying fruits, both smell wonderful, both have peels and seeds, both are pressed for highly-valued juices. It seems to me that apples and oranges are more similar than not.


Why don’t we change this cryptic saying to show real differences, such as: It’s like comparing apples and anvils, or oranges and bazookas? (I think I saw an A-Team episode where they fired apples from a bazooka.)


Who invents these crazy sayings? When is it my turn? Did you stumble over similar old old sayings while growing up?


If you’re like me, today you’ll be turning your back on the inauguration festivities by avoiding television. If so, and if you’re not three sheets to the wind in protest of our new president, you might take a moment to share some of the time worn sayings you were raised with. If you’re a Trump supporter, then I’ve already offended you and it might be easier getting blood from a stone, one of my late mother’s favorite sayings.


When you were a kid, which quotes or sayings made you scratch your head?





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The having your cake one always drove me nuts. What if you just eat half the cake? Then you would have it and eat it as well. I'm just tired of all the drama. They released a list of musicians who would not be at the inauguration today. Frank Sinatra was on the list. Um, he wouldn't be showing up for Clinton either, folks. He's dead.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on January 20, 2017
The three sheets to the wind always made me wonder, until I met and married a sailor. During my last trip to Europe they explained the phrase "getting the wrong end of the stick" and I could have gone without knowing that.
By: Tabor on January 20, 2017
A fascinating topic, we have sayings and use them without every really knowing where they originated, yet they did, somewhere!
By: John on January 20, 2017
I believe that was 'blood from a turnip'. silk purse out of a sow's ear, what goes around comes around, but yeah. all those already mentioned and more. some seemed incomprehensible but now they all make sense.
By: Ellen Abbott on January 20, 2017
My mom's favorite NSFW saying is, "Useless as tits on a boar." Although I figure boars probably do have nipples, but like most male mammals they're just decorative. I like oranges but apples are probably easier to eat raw because you don't have to peel the skin off. Apple juice should have less acid than orange juice (though most cheap brands add acid for tartness) which is better for me than OJ, though you can get low acid OJ for a little bit more.
By: PT Dilloway on January 20, 2017
As a native southerner (in a fly-over state), I bet I could share dozens of old sayings. ;) I supported neither candidate (call me miss third party), but I love my country, I still respect the Office, and I wish the man well. Wanting him to fail seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Ha! There's a good saying for you!
By: Kelly on January 20, 2017
I learned this saying in my early 30's, not a child per se, although..... My Mom always said, "Mad as a wet hen". I got that one but this one???????? That woman was so mad, she had a set of dishes. That man was so upset he had a litter of kittens. ?????????? I'm still confused. As to today's happenings, I'm with you.
By: OmaLinda on January 20, 2017
'Water from a stone' is the saying I recall. 'Useless as tits on a moose' is another. Then there are the following: hat-trick, by the skin of your teeth and go to pot.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 20, 2017
Here in England we say "as different as chalk and cheese" which does seem to make quite a bit of sense even to a kid, at least one who has tried to eat chalk. "As useless as a chocolate teapot" is one that took a bit of working out.
By: jenny woolf on January 20, 2017
Hah! Interesting subject- who did think some of these up? As for politics- I think folks just need to simmer down and be respectful- that's what I have done for the last 16 years.
By: Kathe W. on January 20, 2017
I don't give a rat's ass was the one that always made me go WTF. However, i don't believe I was saying WTF at that age but it makes for a better story when I take liberties. Take care Stephen.
By: Mr. Shife on January 20, 2017
My daughter was always pissed off when people said someone wants to have her cake and eat it, too. Why the hell wouldn't you eat your cake? My mother had some "different" words and phrases that she used because she was from Minnesota. I used them until other kids started asking me why I didn't use the words they did; i.e., she said "davenport" instead of couch. That's not really the same as the sayings. When she worked in the kitchen, she always said, I'm sweatin' like a Turk, which became more and more annoying over the years. I watched bits of the inauguration because I wanted to see the former presidents arrive. Jimmy Carter looks great. That made me happy. I was pleased by the smaller than usual crowds there to watch the procession and parade, and the large number of protesters among them. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 20, 2017
Mom used to say "You are never so poor that you can't be clean." Dad of used the old chestnut "I may disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it." He was a WWII combat vet btw.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 20, 2017
I never quite got it when someone "bought the farm" meant they had died.
By: Arkansas Patti on January 20, 2017
"Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth." Was there something wrong with her butter, or something wrong with her mouth? Blood From a Stone. That's a song, you know.
By: Val on January 20, 2017
Quirky quotes enrich the language. Looking up their origin also adds to the understanding of the meaning. Mine? Don't beat a dead horse. Is this president a dead horse?
By: redKline on January 20, 2017
If a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass every time he hopped. I'm not kidding. I've heard that all my life It's not a comparison, but is said when someone says they "Want" something.
By: Rick Watson on January 20, 2017
I've always understood the apples and oranges one. They have very different colors and taste nothing alike. (Oranges are too acidic for me and I hate the membranes, so I never eat them raw like I do apples.) It's the 6 of one, half dozen of the other that confuses me. They're both 6, and 6 = 6 so the two things are the same. Why not just say they're the same?
By: Lexa Cain on January 20, 2017
Now that i have to list them, i can't think of a single one! It's always that way, isn't it?
By: messymimi on January 20, 2017
It took me until I was an adult to understand "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" - my parents never used it, it was just something I'd run into in books, but it was confusing :) And other than that, I'm like messymimi - can't think of any more!
By: jenny_o on January 20, 2017
Those quotes and sayings can be really troublesome for someone learning English as a second language! When I was still quite new to the United States, my (now ex) mother-in-law asked me if I had lost my marbles after I had done something weird or unusual. I just looked at her, didn't understand. I replied, "No, I don't have any marbles." My (now ex) husband had to explain. Then I understood. She was telling me I didn't have all my cups in the cupboard!
By: Pixel Peeper on January 20, 2017
The pot calling the kettle black is a favorite of mine!
By: Linda on January 20, 2017
"If idiots could fly he'd be a jet."
By: scott park on January 21, 2017
The Smithsonian has a silk purse made from a sow's ear!!
By: fishducky on January 21, 2017
In light of today's politics it might be better to be comparing apples to rotten tomatoes.
By: Catalyst on January 22, 2017
I'm afraid we're now up a creek without a paddle. But then, people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
By: Tom Sightings on January 22, 2017
When I was a child and my brother would say mean things to me I always ran to my mother to tattle on him. She would always tell me to say "It takes one to know one." I didn't understand as a child. Which comes to question, what is a "tattle tail" exactly?
By: STL Fan on January 22, 2017

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