language question: "cherry picking"

example: “you are cherry-picking your facts”

My question is: why cherries?

*(and for fun: why not a passion fruit? or a pointed stick? [/obligatory Monty Python reference]

A cursory look around the Internet suggests that it’s because cherries are small and delicate, thus requiring attention to pick (and giving the opportunity to select the best, instead of taking what comes to hand).

Maybe, but I always assume that it was because cherries are the sweetest and tastiest of fruit. In my house, a pound of cherries bought in the morning will not last till evening.

Now, I’m not totally convinced it was only railroad slang and the suggestion that it was the red lights on the switches seems too convenient.

I’ll try to search some tomorrow and see what happens.

Cherry picking involves going over the entire tree, picking the cherries that are properly ripe and leaving the ones that aren’t fully matured. It means about the same thing outside of the orchard. For example, I used to work as a commission mechanic and the cherry pickers were the guys who went through the pile of work tickets to find the easiest or most profitable jobs instead of just taking the job that was on top.

FYI, here’s a link that describes cherry harvesting.

The phrase may have started in the '40s with railroad workers, but I suspect that it was in common usage before 1950. My father was born in 1921. He used it, and virtually all of the slang that he used dated from WWII and/or the Big Band era.