When someone asks another to do something for them and adds the comment with a cherry on top it’s meant to push the decision in their favor by way of begging. It’s generally something that a child might say to get their way, or that might be used by an adult to express a level of satisfaction that’s higher than what could already be expected or anticipated.
When ESPN reported on the Clemson Tigers winning the College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama Crimson Tide, it was easy to see how much this win meant to the team as well as to their coach Dabo Swinney. When he also won the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year two years running, he was quoted in the article.
“I just assumed that I didn’t have a chance to win it because I didn’t think you could win it back-to-back years,” Swinney said before Wednesday’s ceremony at Toyota Center. “That’d just be the cherry on top of the week I’ve had. That’d be awesome.”
In the 1972 book, “Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story” the New York writer and sports editor of Life magazine, David Wolf, used the idiom to explain on of Connie Hawkins’ basketball moves. Cornelius Lance “Connie” Hawkins (born 17 July 1942) was a teenager who had been wrongfully implicated in a fixing scandal, and it was thanks to David Wolf’s magazine article of May 18, 1969 that Connie Hawkins was cleared in 1969.
People would put quarters on top of the backboard and Jackie would jump up and pick ’em off. He had this shot called “The Double Dooberry with a Cherry on Top.’ On a fastbreak, he’d take a pass at the foul line and jump toward the basket, holdin’ the ball in his two hands. While he was going forward and up, hanging in the air, he would lower the ball down to his waist, raise it over his head, lower down again, raise it back up, and then slam in a dunk. Nobody in the world can do that shot but him. People went crazy every time he did it.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 1: In 1975, singer-songwriter Paul Simon and Connie Hawkins appeared on Saturday Night Live where they played a game of one-on-one basketball to the tune of Simon’s hit song, “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard.” Despite the difference in heights (Paul Simon is 5 feet 3 inches tall to Connie Hawkin’s 6 feet 8 inches), the skit ended with Paul Simon winning against Connie Hawkins.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 2: Connie Hawkins was a Harlem Globetrotter over a four year period from 1963 to 1967.
IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE 3: David Wolf (who died in 2009) became a boxing manager with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini (born 4 March 1961) being his best fighter.
Back in the 1950s, every amateur chef and homemaker knew that the piece de resistance on any dish was the maraschino cherry on top. Even the Atlantic Monthly had something to say on the subject in 1955 on page 95.
And of course the Esperanto of pastry cooks, easy enough to decipher after one or two sorties as supercargo, makes it completely unsurprising to find a cherry on top of anything called Jubilee, or tooth-shattering morsels of nut brittle scattered here and there with the menu cue Noisette, on any ship from a transatlantic liner to a freighter. This lingo is international to the point of banality.
The newspapers, book, and magazines of the fifties all talk about cherries on top as being part of a culinary trend. Idiomation was unable to find any other meaning to cherry on top during this era. However, the idiom was used in “Vasodilator Agents in Management of Wound Shock: A Critical Review” edited by Ben Eiseman and Peter Bosomworth published in November 1962 with the support of the Surgeons General, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Air Force, and the National Institutes of Health, Public Health Service Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. It was published by the National Academy of Science of the National Research Counsil in Washington, D.C..
The idiom was used in the Summation written by Ben Eiseman, M.D., Program Chair at the University of Kentucky Medical School in Lexington (KY). The review was presented at a conference, and summarized the experimental and clinical evidence on the effect of shock of pharmacologic agents used to lower peripheral arterial resistance.
Studies in shocked man, except for the persistent interest of Dr. Nickerson and a few others, have been few and the field still remains wide open. Interpretation of case reports where vasodilators were used as the cherry on top of an accumulated array of other pharmacologic debris in a therapeutic old-fashion cocktail, are largely worthless.
Somewhere between 1955 and 1962, cherries on top became more than just a culinary finishing touch. They became a figurative bonus for whatever it was added to, from favors to research.