hobsons choice

Hobson's choice

the choice of taking either that which is offered or nothing; the absence of a real alternative.

1640–50; after Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), of Cambridge, England, who rented horses and gave his customer only one choice, that of the horse nearest the stable door

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World English Dictionary
Hobson's choice (ˈhɒbsənz)
the choice of taking what is offered or nothing at all
[C16: named after Thomas Hobson (1544--1631), English liveryman who gave his customers no choice but had them take the nearest horse]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

Hobson's choice
Eng. university slang, supposedly from 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 by Milton, c.1660.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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