Mini-Rant: “Pick and Choose”

“I want to be able to pick and choose…”

What’s the difference? Why do you need to be able to both pick AND choose? Why not just pick. Or choose. It’s always been one of my pet peeve expressions. Right up there with “I don’t care for…” instead of  “I don’t like.” I know it is intended to be polite. It just rubs me the wrong way. Stuffy. Pretentious. It’s just an opinion, don’t be offended if you use it. Anyway…

According to Merriam-Webster:

Pronunciation: \ˈpik\
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English piken, partly from Old English *pīcian (akin to Middle Dutch picken to prick); partly from Middle French piquer to prick — more at pike
Date: 14th century

transitive verb

1 : to pierce, penetrate, or break up with a pointed instrument <picked the hard clay>
2 a : to remove bit by bit <pick meat from bones> b : to remove covering or adhering matter from <pick the bones>
3 a : to gather by plucking <pick apples> b : choose, select <tried to pick the shortest route> c : to make (one’s way) slowly and carefully <picked his way through the rubble>
4 a : pilfer, rob <pick pockets> b : to obtain useful information from by questioning —used in such phrases as pick the brains of
5 : provoke <pick a quarrel>
6 a : to dig into : probe <picking his teeth> b : to pluck (as a guitar) with a pick or with the fingers c : to loosen or pull apart with a sharp point <pick wool>
7 : to unlock with a device (as a wire) other than the key <pick a lock>intransitive verb 1 : to use or work with a pick
2 : to gather or harvest something by plucking
3 : pilfer —used in the phrase picking and stealing
4 : to eat sparingly or mincingly <picking listlessly at his dinner>


Main Entry: choose
Pronunciation: \ˈchüz\
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): chose\ˈchōz\; cho·sen\ˈchō-zən\; choos·ing\ˈchü-ziŋ\
Etymology: Middle English chosen, from Old English cēosan; akin to Old High German kiosan to choose, Latin gustare to taste
Date: before 12th century

transitive verb

1 a : to select freely and after consideration <choose a career> b : to decide on especially by vote : elect
2 a : to have a preference for b : decide <chose to go by train>intransitive verb 1 : to make a selection <finding it hard to choose>
2 : to take an alternative —used after cannot and usually followed by but <when earth is so kind, men cannot choose but be happy — J. A. Froude>

Most of the time people actually mean “choose” when they “pick and choose.” The choosing is where the selection is taking place. Perhaps the picking component conveys the research that goes into making a choice. I might be able to make room for this if I take a deep breath and choose to take this all a bit less seriously.


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