A reader sent this note recently to our editors:
Where I grew up we picked cotton, peaches, beans and noses. But even in GA we CHOSE governors, senators, coaches and vinegary barbecue. You might not have noticed, but headline and article writers at the N&O have developed a greater liking for "pick/picked" over "choose/chose." One of your geeks could check it out, proving me wrong--but methinks not. If we pick less and choose more we'll look and "sound" better.
I reckon I am the chosen geek on this question. The answer is ... I can't find an authoritative source on this. I've checked usage books and stylebooks but can't find an entry on pick vs. choose. I have heard this preference from at least one other person, a former copy desk colleague, but I have never seen it written down.
Is this akin to "raising crops" but "rearing children" or to "growing crops" but "increasing revenue"? I don't know.
A dictionary gives this definition for pick: "to choose or select, especially with care." That's the first definition in the entry. The 11th definition of pick in the Random House Webster's College Dictionary is "to pluck or gather one by one." But Webster's New World College Dictionary gives "select or choose" as the eighth definition for the transitive verb pick. "To remove by pulling with the fingers; to pluck" is the fourth definition. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, so it appears that pick to mean choose is common. (If you want a long list of definitions and uses for pick, check the OED. That will give you either a word nerd thrill or a splitting headache.)
The etymology of pick relates to pike for a sharp tool used to pierce or dig soil. From that, I could take the leap that pick is best used for pluck rather than select, but that would be big leap into thin air.
I know that I prefer choice to pick as a noun because it just sounds better, but I might choose pick for a headline because it's shorter. In the body of a story, I would probably write choose a candidate rather than pick a candidate, but I don't think pick is wrong
If you have a good source on pick vs. choose, please send an e-mail message or leave a comment on this post. I must have overlooked it.