This phrase popped into my head tonight, as I’ve been thinking about choices that aren’t choices at all.
A choice between two bad things is technically a dilemma. A choice between two good things is called a divided fork.
But a Hobson’s choice is a choice between one thing and nothing. It’s basically a “take it or leave it,” or, in some cases, “take it or leave.” It’s like Henry Ford saying that you could have a Ford in any color, “as long as it’s black.”
The term comes from Thomas Hobson, who had a livery full of fine horses–which led people to believe they’d have many strong animals from which to choose. But Hobson said they had to take the broken-down animal closest to the door or take none at all. Hence the phrase, “Hobson’s Choice.”
I love the English language and its many turns of phrase. But I don’t think I like the Hobson’s Choice because it’s no choice at all, and a half-truth at best.