Mr Obvious strikes

Posted by Lewis on September 23, 2005

In Reply to: Rich pickings posted by R. Berg on September 18, 2005

: : : : : Can anyone enlighten me as to the origin of the phrase "rich pickings"?

: : : : : My guess is that it refers to the (mainly) women who would during the nepoleonic wars (after a battle had ended) trawl the dead bodies left on battlefields for anything of value.

: : : : I associate it with gold mining, but I don't know that that's its origin.

: : : It's the opposite of "slim pickings," meaning not much to choose from. I always associate it with food harvesting (picking fruit off a tree, for example) but I have no evidence to support this.

: : Well. Now. I've done a little more research, and I can't find support for my harvesting origin ... except as picking through leftovers is harvesting.

: Time to go to the OED. There's no separate entry for "pickings." Definition 3b for "picking" is "That which is or may be picked, or picked up; the produce of picking, the amount picked; a scraping, a scrap; _pl._ gleanings of fruit, remaining scraps of food, or portions of anything worth picking up or appropriating." The first recorded use is by John Milton, 1642: "The Vulturs had then but small pickings."

surely the original is agriculture? fruit, berries etc

just a thought.