Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Hobson's choice, anyone?

I had a conversation in which the particular phrase turned up (with context to a certain constituency's candidates in a certain recent election - no prizes in guessing which one).
Out of boredom I looked it up.

Hobson's choice \HOB-sunz-chois\, noun:
A choice without an alternative; take the thing offered or have nothing.

1) Fagan's defense revolves around his insistence that he faced a Hobson's choice and had to act.
--Laura Parker, "Discovery of daughters never followed by reunion," USA Today, May 11, 1999

2) The stakes are just as high for the deep-pocketed traditional retailers. A recent survey by Jupiter Communications showed that only 6% of e-commerce sales are new spending. The rest come out of the hides of brick-and-mortar retailers. They're faced with a Hobson's choice: Make the plunge online or face a terrifying alternative--gradual extinction. (Ted: Aiyo so panjang la this example)
--Heather Green, "The Great Yuletide Shakeout," Business Week, November 1, 1999

"Hobson's choice" is said to have had its origin in the name of one Thomas Hobson (ca. 1544-1631), at Cambridge, England, who kept a livery stable and required every customer to take either the horse nearest the stable door or none at all. Why? Oh, he had a very valid reason.

In 1914 Henry Ford offered customers of the Model T a famous Hobson's choice, making it available in "any color so long as it is black."

There's also a movie (1953) entitled Hobson's Choice starring Charles Laughton, John Mills and Brenda De Banzie, directed by David Lean (based on an original humorous play by Harold Brighouse, 1915); and a hardcore band of the same name.

If you are bored, like me, pay a visit to the Phrase Finder for the origins of your favorite phrases.

Next phrase, please!

I told you it doesn't take much to keep me amused :)

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