Talk:Hobson's choice

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This page links to Thomas Hobson, which redirects here. Either it should be a no-redirect link, or someone should write an article on the man, or the link should be removed. --Taejo 9 July 2005 13:34 (UTC)

Good thinking. I just created the article. -asx- 04:12, 19 July 2005 (UTC)

Model T[edit]

In reality, the Model T was available in a modest palette of colors, but the rapid production required quick-drying paint, which at the time was available in only one color—black

?? Was the car available in a modest palette of colours, or just black? Or was it later available in other colours? Or could you pay extra to get the black painted-over? --Sophistifunk 03:08, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

The accuracy of the quoted piece is disputed by Wikipedia article on the Model T. (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 22:33, 8 March 2008 (UTC)

I believe it was availble in colours other than black, at least in the early days. This is in Bryson Made in America. I can look it up if you wnat. SimonTrew (talk) 02:50, 12 March 2009 (UTC)
There is a tricky thing here just on spelling. Though Ford may (or may not) have said "Any color...", this is Br. Eng. and should be "Any colour". In a direct quote it's OK, but later sentence "modest palette of colors" should be "colours". But it's gonna look stupid either way. Suggestions? Keep as it is? SimonTrew (talk) 23:31, 6 May 2009 (UTC)


There is a homeless advocacy group in Seattle WA called Real Change whose website offers an interesting interactive game called Hobson's Choice. I suggest it illustrates the concept nicely and serves as an example. Find it at . I am an independent author and have no connection with either Wikipedia or Real Change. (Joe Zlomek, Pottstown PA, 11 May 2007).

A simple example would be nice here... —Preceding unsigned comment added by SousaFan88 (talkcontribs) 03:35, 13 September 2006


Pretty sure those writers are just wrong. It's Hobson. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by BonniePrinceCharlie (talkcontribs) 22:30, 6 December 2006 (UTC).

Yeah they are wrong b ut it is worth saying so. SimonTrew (talk) 02:52, 12 March 2009 (UTC)


USAA is famous for this? How about a reference for that? Tebucky 21:13, 26 March 2007 (UTC)Tebucky

Modern usage[edit]

I removed "This use is disputed." Because it served no purpose, and failed to indicate who disputed it or why. Mostly because it served no purpose.

I removed the second paragraph from this section as well. The second example contradicted the earlier distinction between a Hobson's choice and a dilema. After remove the second choice, the paragraph seemed untenable.

If this is unacceptable, please provide improvements rather than simply reverting. The second paragraph really did contradict the first, and "This is disputed." really is not necessary. If there is a dispute and it is relevant, that the disputers need to be identified, the dispute should be given context and related as any good encyclopedia would.—Preceding unsigned comment added by St.York (talkcontribs)

More on modern usage[edit]

When I read this section I felt it did not adequately describe how this phrase is commonly used, but merely points out the frequent confusion with dilemma.

  • Classic Hobson: here is a choice of one option or nothing - take it or leave it
  • Dilemma: here is a choice between two or more options that the chooser considers equally undesirable or (rarely) desirable
  • Modern usage: here is a choice between two or more options where only one option can actually be chosen.

In this latter usage the chooser may be able to choose nothing, making this a form of Hobson's Choice, or may have to choose the only option available, in which case it's no choice at all. I suggest that Henry Ford's "Any color as long as it's black" could be put in this latter category, as one can't choose to have no colour at all, meaning one must choose black, it being given that one is getting a Model T. However I accept one could equally argue that getting a Model T is not a given, but contingent on colour choice, making his statement an original Hobson's Choice - one could choose not to have a Model T at all.

Example of modern usage, type A: A person has a medical condition for which two treatment options are indicated, but only one is available in the country in which they live or under their insurance scheme. They can choose to take that treatment option, or no treatment. A choice presented as several options turns into a take-it-or-leave-it on examination.

Example of modern usage, type B: A person is asked to pick a red card, but is offered only one red card among many black cards. They have to pick the red card. This is not truly a Hobson's Choice, but is often referred to as such. I don't know what it's called in philosophy, although in magic/entertainment it can be referred to as a force.

Thoughts anyone?

In any case the opening phrase of this section, "Hobson's choice is often misused not to mean a false illusion of choice" should be reworded to "Hobson's choice is often misused not to mean a choice between one option or nothing". Hobson's choice is most definitely a choice and not an illusion of one, you can choose nothing. Cathi M (talk) 23:36, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

Take it or leave it[edit]

Hobson's choice is encapsulated in Hobson's own words when a prospective client objected to Hobson's system of allocating horses. "Take it or leave it." Modern usage has many alternative, related meanings of the phrase, which it is appropriate to list in this article, as a contrast to the original.

The list in the section on media examples are all, without exception, departures from the "take it or leave it" philosophy of the original. Before changing my "all" back to "most", please consider this, and either

  • indicate which one (or more) you consider to be take it or leave it choices, or
  • explain what is wrong with keeping the original usage as the definitive meaning.

Thank you. --King Hildebrand 14:15, 29 August 2007 (UTC)

The Dragon Quest example illustrates both a traditional Hobson's choice ("take option A or leave it"--that is, or quit playing) and a modern pseudo-Hobson's-choice variant that isn't otherwise described in the article (the false appearance of two choices when there's only one). -- 12:32, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
The original Hobson's choice does not appear to have two options but there only be one. There is infact two options a) Take the horse or b) Leave the horse. So the "take it or leave it" idea seems to be more accurate. Cls14 17:59, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

First written record[edit]

According to, among others, Gary Martin at 'The Phrase Finder', article 'Hobson's Choice' at [1]:

Samuel Fisher's, The rustick's alarm to the Rabbies 1660, includes this:
"If in this Case there be no other (as the Proverb is) then Hobson's choice ... which is, chuse whether you will have this or none."

If this quotation is correct, the article needs amending to reflect it. yoyo (talk) 04:19, 19 May 2008 (UTC)

Yes, it would seem the "first written record" in this article is incorrect. The OED has the 1660 usage by Fisher, and for that matter the Ward usage is given as a1706...(1716). Here is the relevant section:
1660 S. FISHER Rusticks Alarm Wks. (1679) 128 If in this Case there be no other (as the Proverb is) then Hobson's choice..which is, chuse whether you will have this or none. 1691 WOOD Ath. Oxon. II. 331 The Masters were left to Hobsons choice, to choose Bennet and no body else. a1708 T. WARD Eng. Ref. (1716) 326 (D.) Where to elect there is but one, 'Tis Hobson's choice, Take that or none.
The OED does specifically mention "See Spectator 1712 No. 509" as being important in the short description of the phrase's source about Hobson. —Centrxtalk • 03:36, 20 June 2008 (UTC)
New section 'Early appearances in writing' sets the record straight. yoyo (talk) 17:51, 16 July 2008 (UTC)

Grim Grotto[edit]

"In The Grim Grotto the Baudelaires and Fiona cannot get out of a room due to a poisonous fungus (the Medusoid Mycelium) growing in the doorway. They refer to it as a Hobson's choice, but this would be a misunderstanding of the term."

I just finished this book and I gotta say I disagree with the editors take. The term is discussed at length in the book, and the choice is literally no choice at all. They can either risk death with the mushrooms, or do nothing, missing out on their last chance at finding out whats going on and dying of starvation to boot. Its no choice at all, and therefor Hobson's Choice. WookMuff (talk) 01:08, 23 August 2008 (UTC)

That's the fault of the editors, not of Hobson. Plainly, Hobson's choice is take it or leave it. You've citations going back over four centuries and I've even coord the place for you. (BTW bizarrely in Cambridge it is not on Hobson St or Hobson's Passage, though both are very nearby.) SimonTrew (talk) 23:38, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

I have not read the book, but as described (take a perilous risk or a slow but certain death) this is not Hobson's Choice. Yes, one of the choices is "do nothing," but Hobson's Choice is "accept these terms or go on as if had never had the 'option.'" As described, this is a dilemma, not a Hobson's Choice. Michael Blackburn 14:42, 24 October 2014 (UTC)


"The reality is that Mr. Obama is trying to present Republicans with a Hobson's choice: Either repudiate their campaign pledge by raising taxes, or take the blame for any economic turmoil and government shutdown as the U.S. nears a debt default," the board wrote. "In the former case Mr. Obama takes the tax issue off the table and demoralizes the tea party for 2012, and in the latter he makes Republicans share the blame for 9.2% unemployment.",0,4560042.story?track=rss — Preceding unsigned comment added by Wikipietime (talkcontribs) 18:38, 13 July 2011 (UTC)

Question: Hobson's choice vs. dilemma[edit]

I don't understand the distinction between Hobson's choice and a dilemma; on this page a dilemma is described as "a choice between two or more options, none of which are attractive". In the example of Hobson's stable, there are two choices: 1) ride the horse closest to the door, or 2) do not ride a horse. Neither of these choices are attractive (well, depending on the horse closest to the door, I guess). How is this distinct from a "dilemma"? Thanks!! --JasonC2 (talk) 15:54, 23 March 2011 (UTC)

In the example of Hobson's stable, the customer is there to choose a horse. While "no horse" is likely undesirable, it's not technically a choice in the context of that customer's decision; it would be removing himself from the situation as if he never encountered it. When the other "option" is actually the absence of an option, it's a Hobson's choice. If it were a dilemma, the choice would be between two equally undesirable horses. (talk) 06:12, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

Dilemma/Morton's Fork[edit]

In the first section, the article makes distinction between a Hobson's choice and other conundrums. There doesn't seem to be a difference between dilemma and Morton's fork. In fact, the Morton's fork article indicates that the terms are synonymous. The dilemma article seems to indicate that a Morton's fork is a dilemma, though a dilemma isn't necessarily a Morton's fork. These should be combined, or perhaps Morton's fork should be removed from this list entirely, as other types of dilemmas are absent. (Honestly, I'm not sure this list should be there at all, or at least not in this section. Maybe we need a new section for disambiguation of Hobson's choice?) (talk) 06:27, 15 October 2011 (UTC)

Addition in popular culture[edit]

If I understood well, we could add to the popular culture the "choice" Andy gives to Red in Shawshank Redemption: "get busy living, or get busy dying", right? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:35, 19 May 2014 (UTC)

I think that the Godfather reference is more closely an extortion/blackmail activity than Hobson's Choice. I think it should be removed from this section. "A well known line of the 1835 novel Le Père Goriot by French novelist Honoré de Balzac is when Vautrin tells Eugene, "In that case I will make you an offer that no one would decline."[20] This has been reworked by Mario Puzo in the novel The Godfather (1969) and its film adaptation (1972); "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse", a line which was ranked as the second most significant cinematic quote in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes (2005) by the American Film Institute." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:32, 10 November 2015 (UTC)

Logial error.[edit]

Hobson´s choice is not a something or nothing choice, the stable master, being indeed stable and master.

Hobson´s choise is a choice between that what is functional and capacitated, requiring the/an exercise of will (the master of stable´s not making a placement onto that what would not be), or none at all.

This is that same in the context of the Heilein´s story, concerning pioneers and their final exam. Would it be required, if you had to pack a survival kit, to add a spacesuit? The answer there is no, the practical, not being placed in such a form and manner that that would kill the graduate before their time. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:07, 24 June 2015 (UTC)

I don't really understand what you're getting at. Do you have a specific suggestion to improve the article in any way? <> Alt lys er svunnet hen (talk) 03:41, 13 September 2016 (UTC)

Incorrect reference in Popular Culture[edit]

The reference to the use of the phrase in the episode of The Blacklist titled "Cape May" states that Red is using it to refer to Elizabeth and her baby. He is actually talking about Elizabeth and her mother. Elizabeth is the child in the story he is relating, not the mother. This is completely separate from the fact that I think he used the phrase incorrectly. Since his choice was "Save one or lose them both", I don't think this qualifies as an "all or nothing" choice. I think it is actually closer to a Sophie's Choice in which he had to decide which one to save. (talk) 20:08, 23 February 2017 (UTC)RM

Popular Culture has wrong examples[edit]

As far as I can see everything in popular culture is either blackmail or a dilemma, nothing really is a case of Hobson's choice. As somebody said Hobson's choice is "accept these terms or go on as if had never had the 'option.'" It is not that you have to do something bad by blackmail or by having only bad options or so. A real example of Hobson's choice is buying a leasehold property in England: You can either not buy the property or buy it with the lease as it is. You do not have the choice to get the lease changed as it suits you. It't this contract or none. None is actually not a bad option, because you can just continue without that property, which is not bad. The point is you have the actual option (as opposed to blackmail or a dilemma) to do nothing and you will not die or whatever. The other option is to take the lease as it is (unfortunately many people don't understand this and start complaining about the conditions of the lease after they bought it, this is too late, but this is something for the property section). — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:22, 21 January 2018 (UTC)