Friday, April 30, 2010

"Hobson's Choice"

Your humble scribe hadn't heard the phrase "Hobson's Choice" for awhile until the other day in a Wall Street Journal article.  (Germany now has one, as far as bailing out Greece is concerned.  But I digress.)  A Hobson's Choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered.  Because a person may, of course, refuse to take that option, the choice really becomes "take it or leave it".  The phrase is said to have originated with Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England.  To rotate the use of his horses he offered the choice of either taking the horse in the stall nearest the door - or none at all.  Apparently he had some 40 horses - a wide choice - when in fact there was only one choice.  A Hobson's Choice is to be distinguished, gentle reader, from a "Morton's Fork" wherein the choices offered yield equivalent (often undesirable) results - more widely known as a Catch-22.