Do you know the idiom about "comparing apples and oranges"? I think it generally means "things that are different shouldn't be directly compared," in a marketplace, bartering sense. Because apples and oranges are different, and it quickly becomes complicated because one person will slightly prefer apples over oranges, or vice-versa, while another will have a strong preference one way or the other, and yet a third person might value them equally. And this usage is correct, accurate, and true: it IS important to compare "apples to apples," ...which, you know what, is pretty much WHY 'money' was even invented in the first place: as a (non-perishable!) medium of exchange.
The thing I keep thinking about, though, is how -which now that I'm reflecting for communication's sake, I realize is obviously the reason these two items, an apple and an orange, were "picked" (GET IT!?! HAW HAW*) for the expression in the first place- in many ways (very nearly EVERY WAY!) apples and oranges are the same. So I have thought up different categories ~with examples~ of things it is difficult and problematic to compare:
∙apples and pizza
this is the first step away; an apple and a pizza -or a SLICE of pizza? hmm- are vastly more different than an apple and an orange; but importantly, they are both foodstuffs, i.e. intended for human consumption. [without getting into philosophic/religious debate, I think the question "is an apple, after it has been picked, washed, and delivered here (onto this rhetorical table), accurately described as 'intended for human consumption'?" may be a good way to distinguish between people who are capable of engaging in worthwhile dialogue, and people who are not.]
∙apples and orange: [can for clarity be called apples and purple]
An apple and a color are pretty different; an apple is a thing you can see and touch, whereas a color is something you can see but which, in its broadest [and simultaneously, narrowest?!?] sense, only exists as a quality of other, very diverse, things. Importantly though, orange can be experienced by the senses, in the physical world.
∙apples and music
I haven't thought about this one much; I think it is only different from the previous category in that 1)music generally enters the perception via the ears, unlike "orange" whose vector is usually the eyes, and perhaps more importantly 2)"music" is a one-step-broader category than just any single color.... I think, therefor, that the difference between this category and the previous one is (are you ready:) apples and oranges! i.e. significant enough to consider different and merit sober consideration.
∙apples and quantity
An apple is a physical object, whereas quantity is a narrow, concrete, and specific trait[is quantity a quality? I think it is!] of physical things. Note that the important feature of this type of difference is its utility in spite of requisite intellectual gymnastics; for this reason I have tagged this category with a semi-abstract concept pertinent to the original discussion, which was occurring for a reason. "So different that it takes some real brainstorming to think of a scenario when you might even ever need to compare the two things"... note however that I think such a scenario might possibly actually arise. (Which to my mind is slightly different from saying "I think a person might be able to imagine such a scenario"... I think that very difference is a great example of the next category!)
∙apples and causation
In some circumstances it is useful to compare a physical thing and an abstract concept or intellectual activity... this category refers to THE OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES, when not only is it difficult to even IMAGINE, let alone PERFORM the comparison, but the very fact that the diverse elements find themselves in the same discussion should be read as a signpost: WELCOME TO POINTLESS‼ ↑ REALITY X MILES BACK ↑ (the existence of a pointer in pointlessville being itself a prime example of "theoretically interesting on some level but without relevance on the physical ground")
*no, "haw" is different....the fruit of the hawthorn, it is more like an apple...
- ▼ 2009 (16)