The Etymology of ‘Cherry-Pick’

I wound up looking into the etymology of “cherry-pick” while writing this post earlier today, and I’m simply astounded by this note from Merriam-Webster:

The first known use of cherry-pick was in 1965.

I’m shocked that cherry-pick is so recent. I figured it was not just old but maybe really old, centuries old. Is this right?

Update 1: The Online Etymology Dictionary pegs cherry-pick’s origin as 1959 — a little earlier, but not much.

Update 2: Anu Garg, founder and writer of the excellent Wordsmith and its A.Word.A.Day newsletter, pegged cherry-pick’s earliest documented use as 1966.

Update 3: The other OED has an instance of “cherry-picker” as a railroad industry term for a switchman from 1940, which usage explains why the idiom is about cherries — the switch lights were red.

Friday, 7 August 2020