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May 19, 2010
This week's theme
Whose what?

This week's words
Ockham's razor
Morton's fork
Hobson's choice
Achilles' heel
St. Elmo's fire

Thomas Hobson of Hobson's choice fame
Thomas Hobson
Artist unknown

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

Hobson's choice

PRONUNCIATION:
(HOB-sonz chois)

MEANING:
noun: An apparently free choice that offers no real alternative: take it or leave it.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Thomas Hobson (1544?-1630), English keeper of a livery stable, from his requirement that customers take either the horse nearest the stable door or none.

NOTES:
Hobson had some 40 animals in his rent-a-horse business and a straightforward system: a returning horse goes to the end of the line, and the horse at the top of the line gets to serve next. He had good intentions -- rotating horses so his steeds received good rest and an equal wear, but his heavy-handed enforcement of the policy didn't earn him any customer service stars. He could have offered his clients the option of choosing one of the two horses nearest the stable door, for instance, and still achieve nearly the same goal. More recently Henry Ford offered customers a Ford Model T in any color as long as it was black.

USAGE:
"There, many are given a legal Hobson's choice: Plead guilty and go home or ask for a lawyer and spend longer in custody."
Sean Webby; No Lawyer in Sight for Many Making Way Through System; San Jose Mercury News (California); Dec 30, 2009.

See more usage examples of Hobson's choice in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Our choicest plans / have fallen through, / our airiest castles / tumbled over, / because of lines / we neatly drew / and later neatly / stumbled over. -Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

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