Please Stop Telling Me That I Can’t Compare Apples to Oranges
December 13, 2013

Please Stop Telling Me That I Can’t Compare Apples to Oranges

Filed under Things People Don't Realize

There are a lot of things about Corporate America that I don’t fully understand. And chief among those things is the phrase “you can’t compare apples to oranges.” This much beloved idiom has been savagely beaten into the brains of every white-collar worker in America. In fact, by the time you finish this sentence, some poor sap in a swivel chair and a button down who is emotionally dead inside will have been reprimanded for not making an “apples to apples” comparison.

But has it ever occurred to you that this particular corporate catchphrase doesn’t make a lick of fucking sense?

Of course you can compare apples to oranges. Quite easily, in fact. Here, watch me commit blasphemy and do the impossible:

1) Both apples and oranges are round colorful fruits that grow on trees

2) Both apples and oranges are juicy and delicious

3) Both apples and oranges moonlight as popular juices

4) Do you seriously need another example?

5) Fine: you can choke to death on both apples and oranges, and I hope you do, if you tell me not to compare apples to oranges one more time

Oh no he didn’t! Oh yes, he did. Hey, since when do two things need to be identical for you to meaningfully compare them?

Here’s something that will never happen: you sit down at a fancy French restaurant and feel paralyzed by all the scrumptious options on the menu. You call the waiter over. “Garçon, I’m having trouble deciding between the Duck Confit and the Filet Mignon. What do you recommend?” The waiter violently slams his fist on the table. “Monsieur, I can’t possibly answer zat question. I can only make Duck to Duck comparisons.“

You see what I’m getting at here? Do you need me to put this into a deck? God, what is wrong with you people?

Look, I appreciate the spirit behind “you can’t compare apples to oranges.” Yes, true, things should be compared on their relative merits and misleading parallels breed bad decisions. But it’s still a shitty saying, because apples and oranges are so similar. There is no danger in mixing those two things up.

Why don’t we say, “You can’t compare pistols and lollipops” or “sticks of dynamite and birthday candles” or “New York City and Long Island.” Things that can and should not be compared. Things that if mixed up would have disastrous consequences. That would make sense.

Just stick with that one you have about the forest and the trees, I like that one.

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