What’s in a phrase?
Soft fruits are used in expressions to illustrate a variety of situations. Here are just three…
Blow a raspberry You probably know how to blow one, but why this particular summer fruit? A classic case of rhyming slang: raspberry tart equals fart. Usually done as a mild insult.
Cherry-pick Selecting only the best people or things from a group to serve a particular purpose, with negative connotations. Cherry-picker was originally American railway slang, says the OED, for a signalman (controlling cherry-like red lights), but also referring to any railwayman who hogged the best jobs (from ‘life is a bowl of cherries’).
Play gooseberry What now means ‘to be an unwelcome single person with one or more couples’ originally referred to the role of a chaperone in the 1800s, when couples needed a third wheel for the sake of propriety: activities such as picking gooseberries could occupy the chaperone, leaving the couple free to enjoy a degree of intimacy.