June 04, 2007

Hobson's Choice

Hobson's Choice - An apparently free choice that actually offers no alternative or is no choice at all. In other words, the choice of taking what is offered or nothing at all.

How some people get immortalized by just being plain eccentric is proved by the origin of this phrase. Thomas Hobson (1544-1630) was the keeper of a livery stable who ran a thriving carrier and horse rental business in Cambridge, England and in order to rotate the use of his horses, allowed customers to take only the horse nearest the stable door. It's like, the horse nearest the stable door or none. Take it or leave it???

The first known written usage of this phrase is in Joseph Addison's paper "The Spectator" (1712) though it also appears in Thomas Ward's 1688 poem "England's Reformation", not published until after Ward's death (1708). Ward wrote,
"Where to elect there is but one,
'tis Hobson's choice—take that, or none."

Trivia: Henry Ford was said to have sold the Ford Model T with the famous Hobson's choice of "... any colour ... so long as it is black"

Sources: www.answers.com, http://www.phrases.org.uk/

8 comments:

suramya said...

ha ha, I seem to be getting that a lot from my parents these days. I've come across this phrase as "Hobbesian choice" also. I think they mean the same thing.

Moi said...

haha...i thought of my darling Dad too..:)))
In course of my research on Hobson's choice this is what I found on Hobbesian choice :

"On occasion, writers use the term "Hobbesian choice" instead of "Hobson's choice", not confusing philosopher Thomas Hobbes for Thomas Hobson, but referring to a specific Hobson's choice offered by Hobbes. The philosopher's famous choice is of an armed robber's "your money or your life", with the serious claim that the person making the choice is fully free."

Moi said...

and girl u sure are an early riser!!!!!

yogsma said...

interesting trivia..There is also a movie with the same name ..showing feminine revolution .

666 said...

@moi: Hobson's choice has been a fav one of mine since a long time. Good trivia.. and you pre empted a comment

@yogsma: thanks!! I am NOT watching it.

Radha said...

Interesting, I didnt know the roots of this phrase & to think that some rent-a-horse guy gave birth to a famous phrase...its funny :)

Moi said...

Yogsma : is there? I wasn't aware...good enough to go for it ????

666: Henry Ford was an interesting man, wasn't he...even Iaccoca, a Ford -hater has nice things to say about him!!!

Radha: haha!!! he made sure his name's talked about long after he's gone.

Jas Bhambra said...

Thats some choice, eh! :)