Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Apples and Sparkplugs

Yesterday’s language rant deserves a follow-up. All too frequently people say, ‘You’re comparing apples and oranges’ in order to convey the idea that two things are so dissimilar as to to disallow any significant comparison. Can’t they do better than this? Apples and oranges are highly comparable in respects too numerous to mention. Both are fruits, both are edible, both grow on trees, both are good sources of fiber, both contain Vitamin C, etc.

Why not say, ‘You are comparing apples and sparkplugs’? Apples are naturally occurrent and edible while sparkplugs are inedible artifacts. That’s a serious difference.

This reminds me of a story I read as a boy in my hometown newspaper. A man once ate an entire car, sparkplugs and all. A feat of automotive asceticism to rival the pillar antics of Simon Stylites. He did it by cutting the car and its parts into small pieces that he then washed down with generous libations of buttermilk. But a car is not just solid parts, but various fluids. You’ve got your gasoline, your crankcase oil, your tranny fluid, not to mention coolant, windshield wiper liquid, and what all else. How did he negotiate that stuff? Well, I suppose anything can be passed throught the gastrointestinal system if sufficiently watered down. So if a man gets it into his head to eat an entire car, he can do it. As my 4th grade teacher Sr Elizabeth (Lizard) Marie used to say, "Where there’s a will there’s a way."