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Apples and oranges
Apples and oranges is a common English idiom. It is used to describe unlike objects or people. One of the most well-known bits of popular wisdom in the English-speaking world is that apples and oranges cannot be compared. The ability to tell apples from oranges is learned.
This idiom began as a comparison of "apples and oysters" in a book of proverbs published in 1670. This idiom has become a marker in English-speaking culture. Idioms are a common stumbling block for learners of a language.
The idiom is not uniquely English.
In French-speaking Quebec, the idiom is comparer des pommes avec des oranges (to compare apples and oranges), In Europe, the French idiom is comparer des pommes et des poires (to compare apples and pears).
In order to compare anything, there needs to be a theory to be proven and framework for testing the theory. Three basic questions come first:
- What are we comparing?
- Are the subjects good for comparing?
- Do the measures of comparison function in the same or similar ways?
The idiom has inspired scientific research projects. For example, the British Medical Journal published a study of red delicious apples compared with navel oranges. They were found to have many similarities.
There are differences in nutritional value.
Experiments at NASA Ames Research Center showed that apples and oranges decay at similar rates.
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- RoadtoNutrition.com, "Orange juice vs. apple juice"; retrieved 2012-4-4.
- Improbable.com citing Scott. (1995). "Apples and Oranges -- a comparison," NASA Ames Research Center.
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- Smithsonian.com, Comparing Apples and Oranges