Chalk and Cheese - Meaning, Origin and Usage

When using the idiom "chalk and cheese," you're referring to two items, tasks, people, or ideologies that are entirely different from one another. The phrase still has a use today, and many people use it in informal and formal settings to describe differences.

This idiom dates all the way back to the 13th century, and it remains relevant today. The "chalk" and the "cheese" can refer to many different items, people, ideologies, or any situation where you want to compare two opposites.

Let's look at the origins and meanings of this phrase and how to structure the idiom in a sentence.

Chalk and Cheese Meaning

"Chalk and cheese" is an idiom describing two polar opposites. You'll use this phrase when you want to describe two or more items, people, animals, food types, and more. Essentially, the idiom refer to having nothing common with someone else or a lack of similarity. It's a short and snappy phrase-making clever use of alliteration.

Chalk and Cheese Example Usage

When using the idiom "chalk and cheese," you'll be comparing opposites, usually in an informal setting, but it's also useful in some formal situations.

  • My sister and I come from the same parents, we have the same genetics, but we're as different as chalk and cheese.
  • What you do in public and how you behave at home is as different as chalk and cheese.
  • Comparing Ricks BMW to Skylar's VW Bug is like chalk and cheese.
  • The summer and winter seasons in the UK are as different as chalk and cheese.
  • We can't partner with that company; our business models are like chalk and cheese.

Chalk and Cheese Origin

The origin of "chalk and cheese" comes from the UK in the 13th century. Some shopkeepers would try to stretch their profits by adding chalk into the ingredients when making cheese to add more weight to the final product.

However, customers would catch onto this trick over time and use the phrase to highlight the difference between good and bad cheese producers.

Phrases Similar to Chalk and Cheese

There are plenty of idioms that are similar to "chalk and cheese." They refer to severe differences in products, people, personality, businesses, ideologies, and more. You can use the idiom whenever you're comparing things or people that are opposites. Here are a few examples of similar phrases.

  • It's like "apples and oranges."
  • As different as X and Y.
  • Like night and day.
  • Like fire and ice.
  • Good and evil.
  • The dark and the light.

Phrases Opposite to Chalk and Cheese

If you're using the opposite of chalk and cheese, then you're describing similar things. Some opposite idioms would be the following.

  • Two peas in a pod.
  • Likeminded individuals.
  • We fit together like a glove.
  • Like white on rice.

What is the Correct Saying?

The correct phrasing of the idiom is as follows.

  • Chalk and cheese.
  • As different as chalk and cheese.
  • Like comparing chalk and cheese.

Ways People May Say Chalk and Cheese Incorrectly

Some people may use the idiom "chalk and cheese" in sentences or conversations that don't express the proper meaning of the idiom.

Examples would be the following.

  • Dinner and supper are like chalk and cheese.
  • My clothing items are chalk and cheese.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Chalk and Cheese

When using the idiom "chalk and cheese," you're describing a significant difference between two items, people, or ideologies. So, using the phrase requires you to make a comparison.

Modern differentiations of the saying could be "Chalk and Talk." In the early 1930s in England, this phrase was around, but it never really took off in modern popular culture.

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