5

Is there an equivalent Latin expression that is similar to "comparing apples and oranges"?

For example:

Person 1: Our hockey goalie is so much better than your hockey goalie! Our hockey goalie only let 2 shots in - your hockey goalie let 5 shots in!

Person 2: Well, they took 50 shots on our hockey goalie during the game! They only took 4 shots on your hockey goalie! Therefore, our hockey goalie not only stopped more total shots than your hockey goalie - but our hockey goalie stop a larger percentage of shots than your hockey goalie!

Person 1: So what?

Person 2: You are comparing "apples to oranges"! When you compare both hockey goalies using the same standards (e.g. percentage of shots stopped), our goalie is much better!

In Latin, would there be some general expression to describe this situation? Is there some expression in Latin that translates to "comparing apples and oranges" and can be used for "equating false comparisons"?

Thanks!

8
  • There is a Greek expression, which has been Latinized as Cous ad Chium (comparing the islands of Cous and Chium). Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 15:48
  • The variant Chius ad Coum gets its own entry as Adagium 1668 in Erasmus's Colloquia Familiaria Et Encomium Moriae. He goes on to say, De comparatione vehementer inaequali dicebatur. Link: ihrim.huma-num.fr/nmh/Erasmus/Proverbia/Adagium_1668.html
    – Figulus
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 16:59
  • @Figulus Any idea when the phrase originates?
    – cmw
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 19:49
  • Other than what Erasmus tells me in the link above, namely Zenodotus, Hesychius and Suidas, no, I'm afraid I don't.
    – Figulus
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 22:02
  • Thank you so much everyone!
    – stats_noob
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 23:17

1 Answer 1

3

For "comparison by the same standard" there is a nice expression by Horace:

Pensare/ponere rem eādem trutinā (to weigh/place in the same balance; which L&S interprets as "judge one by the same standard") [Hor.Ep.2.1.30, Hor.S.1.3.72].

If we dig deeper in the first reference:

Si, quia Graiorum sunt antiquissima quaeque
scripta vel optima, Romani pensantur eadem
scriptores trutina, non est quod multa loquamur:
nil intra est olea, nil extra est in nuce duri;

If, because among Greek writings the oldest are quite the best, we are to weigh Roman writers in the same balance, there is no need of many words. The olive has no hardness within, the nut has none without; [Loeb translation].


But actually, if we think about this, when we argue against a person "you compare apples to oranges" we basically saying that the very analogy is wrong. That this person weights in the same scale different things that should not be compared under the same balance because there are quite different.

Having this in mind, it makes the last line from above Horace a possible better candidate to capture the idea the best. it is also somewhat little sarcastic: nil intra est olea, nil extra est in nuce duri. i.e., great job! you found a ground to compare the two; but they are different.(*)

(*) from: Kayachev, B. (2018). Horace, Epistles 2.1.31: A Textual Note. Philologus, 162(2), 366-367. (previrew):

Horace warns us against drawing wrong analogies: if we press the analogy between the olive and the nut far enough, we arrive at the absurd conclusion that the olive is soft inside and the nut is soft outside.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.