Hobson's Choice
Where to elect there is but one.
'Tis Hobson's choice—take that or none.
Thomas Ward
   When, years ago, you went to buy a Ford, and the auto dealer said take any color as long as it's black, you were given Hobson's choice. The choice boils down to no choice at all because there is no alternative. A person driven to a single course of action has only a Hobson's choice. The phrase originated from the practice of Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), a liveryman in seventeenth-century Cambridge, England, whose customers, especially the students from the university, if unrestricted, would always select his fastest horses and ride them to exhaustion. He knew, as he put it, that "scholars ride hard." Knowing that the welfare of the horses would be best served if they were used in rotation, he established a rule that his customers could not select a horse of their own choosing but had to hire the one he placed nearest the stable door, which was the horse that had had the most rest. The customer could accept the offer or reject it—that is, ride off or walk. Hobson was a well-known character in his day. He amassed a fortune during his lifetime, owned a half-dozen manor houses, and left sufficient funds to maintain a public aqueduct and fountain in the Cambridge marketplace. The poet John Milton knew Hobson as a young man, and wrote a humorous epitaph upon his death, which included the lines:
Ease was his chief disease; and to judge right,
He died for heaviness that his cart went light;
His leisure told him that his time was come,
And lack of load made his life burdensome.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hobson's Choice — is a play by Harold Brighouse, the title coming from the popular expression, Hobson s choice meaning no choice at all.The play was first produced in America, the first English production being on June 24 1916 in London. The story is set in… …   Wikipedia

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  • hobson's choice — A Hobson s choice is something that appears to be a free choice, but is really no choice as there is no genuine alternative …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • Hobson's choice — Hob son s choice A choice without an alternative; the thing offered or nothing. [1913 Webster] Note: It is said to have had its origin in the name of one Hobson, at Cambridge, England, who let horses, and required every customer to take in his… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hobson's choice — English university slang term, supposedly a reference to Thomas Hobson (c.1544 1631), Cambridge stable manager who let horses and gave customers a choice of the horse next in line or none at all. Phrase popularized c.1660 by Milton, who was at… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Hobson's choice — ► NOUN ▪ a choice of taking what is offered or nothing at all. ORIGIN named after Thomas Hobson (1554 1631), a carrier who hired out horses, making the customer take the one nearest the door or none at all …   English terms dictionary

  • Hobson's choice — [häb′sənz] n. [after T. Hobson (1544? 1631), of Cambridge, England, who owned livery stables and let horses in strict order according to their position near the door] a choice of taking what is offered or nothing at all; lack of an alternative …   English World dictionary

  • Hobson's choice — A Hobson s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered, and one may refuse to take that option. The choice is therefore between taking the option or not taking it, colloquially formulated as take it or leave it. The phrase Hobson… …   Wikipedia

  • Hobson's Choice — Chaussure à son pied (film) Chaussure à son pied Titre original Hobson’s Choice Réalisation David Lean Acteurs principaux Charles Laughton John Mills Scénario Wynyard Browne David Lean Norman Spencer d après Harold Brighouse Genre Comédie… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hobson’s choice — n [U] a situation in which there is no choice, because only one course of action or result is possible. The expression comes from the name of Thomas Hobson, a 17th–century British horse dealer who would not allow his customers any choice when… …   Universalium

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