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Hobson’s Choice


“The human mind isn’t a terribly logical or consistent place. Most people, given the choice to face a hideous or terrifying truth or to conveniently avoid it, choose the convenience and peace of normality. That doesn’t make them strong or weak people, or good or bad people. It just makes them people.”
Jim Butcher, Turn Coat

Not for the first time, I’m mistaken about the meaning of a familiar phrase: Hobson’s Choice. Turns out that Thomas Hobson was the owner of a livery stable who rented horses. His practice, however, was to offer the horse in the nearest stall and only that horse. Take it or leave it. So the actual meaning of Hobson’s Choice is no choice whatsoever.

What I was (and apparently still am) seeking is a shorthand for describing the choice between two bad options — but a choice that must be made. The Lady or the Tiger — and the Lady has bubonic plague. See what I mean? I’m faced with one of those at the moment, which means, as you might guess, that I feel the need to write a very short story about some parallel in Agincourt. Perhaps writing about someone else’s frustration will ease my own.

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