Apples and Oranges:

A recent Corner post quotes an e-mail that says that comparing Bush's and Churchill's rhetoric "is [comparing] apples and oranges," presumably meaning "comparing two things that can't properly be compared."

But (as I noted before), we compare apples and oranges all the time! We compare them by price, by how much we like the taste, by likely sweetness and ripeness, by how well they'll go in a tasty fruit cocktail, and so on. In fact, every time we go to the store and buy apples rather than oranges — or vice versa — we are necessarily (if implicitly) comparing apples and oranges. You too have compared apples and oranges, and have been quite right to do so.

Seems to me that the phrase should instead reflect two items that really are radically dissimilar — say, "comparing apples and democracy," or "comparing oranges and the multiplication table." Now those comparisons really would be hard to conduct.

UPDATE: Reader Q the Enchanter says he often uses "apples and orangutans."