Created By: jpmoney2k1 on September 14, 2011 Last Edited By: DAN004 on March 25, 2016

Hobson's Choice

Offering a choice of only one option.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
DAN 004 wuz ere takin over ur druft

Alt title: Single Option Choice

A statement where one is seemingly given a choice of many options, but it is suffixed with a condition wherein only one choice is possible. Typically used for comedy.

From The Other Wiki: "When an apparent choice is in fact no choice at all (because there's only one option)."

Compare But Thou Must! when there are presented some options but only one of them lets you advance, as well as Morton's Fork and Sadistic Choice when the choices are all bad in some way.

Examples

Film
  • The Fast and the Furious: "You can have any brew you want... as long as it's a Corona."
  • In Rounders, the protagonist's mentor tells the story of how he was raised by a devout Jewish family with the expectation that he would become a rabbi like his father and forefathers. He was praised by his teachers for having a deep understanding of the Talmud, but he "never saw God there," so he left for New York to study law. He found great personal satisfaction in his new vocation, but his family was inconsolable and although he tried several times to mend fences, never spoke to him again. The protagonist asks if, knowing how it would turn out, if he would have made the same choice. The mentor responds, "What choice?"

Jokes
  • Israelis often make this joke when someone is pregnant: 'I don't care if it's a boy or a girl, as long as there's a bris!'

Literature
  • Several Discworld books mention a Hobson's Livery Stable in Ankh-Morpork and a reference to the Trope Namer.
  • In the Star Trek Expanded Universe book Starfleet Academy: Worf's First Adventure this comes up in a class where Worf defends a decision that Captain Kirk had made, in order to save his [Worf's] brother who is floundering in a classroom discussion.
    "Captain Kirk's actions were necessary sir. Not right, nor wrong. Necessary."
    "I was not speaking to you, Mr. Worf," said [Professor] Lynch.
    No sir. But I was speaking to you, sir."
    [snip]
    "Captain Kirk did have a choice."
    "No, sir. He did not, because one of the two choices would have been tantamount to murdering his crew. No Starfleet officer - no man, if he is to call himself a man - would have made that dishonorable decision. That left him with one choice. And one choice, sir, is no choice.

Theater
  • Hobson's Choice is also the name of a 1915 theatrical play written by Harold Brighouse. The play concludes with the main character, Henry Horatio Hobson, having lost his wealth and facing the choice of having to be taken care of by his daughter Maggie and her husband Will Mossop, one of Hobson's former underlings. Hobson's other daughters refuse to have anything to do with him, so he has no choice but to accept Maggie's offer. It also comes with the condition that he must surrender his entire business to her and her fiance.

Real Life
  • Henry Ford: "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black."
Community Feedback Replies: 56
  • September 14, 2011
    rjung
    Isn't this But Thou Must?
  • September 14, 2011
    Illuminatus
    But Thou Must seems to be situations where you are forced into taking a specific option. This seems to be more like there is only one option mockingly presented as a choice.

  • September 14, 2011
    Xelloss08
    This is commonly known as a "Hobson's Choice" after Thomas Hobson, who famously had a "this one or none" policy when renting out horses.
  • September 14, 2011
    Fanra
    We already have Mortons Fork. If we need this trope, it should be named "Hobson's Choice". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson%27s_choice
  • September 16, 2011
    jpmoney2k1
    Rename implemented. Thanks for the suggestion, everyone.
  • September 16, 2011
    69BookWorM69
    Doesn't this get played with in Arthur? As in, the butler's name was Hobson, and Hobson had a certain degree of control over Arthur's life.
  • September 16, 2011
    elwoz
    I suggest this rephrase of the laconic:

    Offering a choice of only one option.

    or perhaps even better, shamelessly stealing from The Other Wiki,

    When an apparent choice is in fact no choice at all (because there's only one option).
  • September 16, 2011
    randomsurfer
    ^^FYI that should be Film.Arthur not Main.Arthur.
  • September 16, 2011
    KamenZero
    Played with an a very NSFW Oglaf strip. http://oglaf.com/simon/1/
  • September 19, 2011
    Bisected8
    • At the end of the first Half Life, the Gman offers Gordon the opportunity to work for him...or be left to die in Xen. At the end of the sequal he appears again, lampshades the fact it was this trope and says he'll decide your next assignment himself this time...then in the expansion the Vortigaunts show up to prevent it.
  • January 18, 2013
    elwoz
    Bump; I think this is a real trope but clearly we need more examples.
  • March 30, 2014
    Adeon
    • Several Discworld books mention a Hobson's Livery Stable in Ankh-Morpork and a reference to the Trope Namer.
  • March 30, 2014
    Daefaroth
    The laconic sounds like But Thou Must. May I suggest throwing the appropriate stock phrase there? Where one is given a choice, take it or leave it.
  • April 24, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In the Star Trek Expanded Universe book Starfleet Academy: Worf's First Adventure this comes up in a class where Worf defends a decision that Captain Kirk had made, in order to save his [Worf's] brother who is floundering in a classroom discussion.
    [Warf said,] "Captain Kirk's actions were necessary sir. Not right, nor wrong. Necessary."
    [snip]
    "Captain Kirk did have a choice [replied Professor Lynch]."
    "No, sir. He did not, because one of the two choices would have been tantamount to murdering his crew. No Starfleet officer - no man, if he is to call himself a man - would have made that dishonorable decision. That left him with one choice. And one choice, sir, is no choice.
  • April 25, 2014
    bitemytail
    If you want a page image, the dailywtf.com has tons of examples of this in the error section.

    http://thedailywtf.com/Series/2014/3/Error_0x27_d.aspx

    example: http://thedailywtf.com/Articles/Not-All-Birthdays-are-Created-Equal.aspx#Pic-5
  • April 25, 2014
    Surenity
    • Gary Hobson of Early Edition was named after this, and he often has to make these kinds of choices when trying to prevent catastrophes he reads about in tomorrow's paper. For example, in the episode "The Choice" he must choose to either prevent a plane crash, or save a single little girl from being struck by a car. What seems like an easy choice at first becomes difficult the more he learns about the girl.
  • April 25, 2014
    DAN004
    What about One-Option Choice for the title?
  • May 7, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump.
  • May 8, 2014
    MaxWest
    Just to be clear: Morton's Fork is where you have two (or more) choices, but all have negative consequences. Hobson's Choice is the illusion of a choice where it's that choice or nothing. Sometimes the two get confused.
  • May 8, 2014
    MaxWest
    Hobson's Choice is also the name of a 1915 theatrical play written by Harold Brighouse. The play concludes with the main character, Henry Horatio Hobson, having lost his wealth and facing the choice of having to be taken care of by his daughter Maggie and her husband Will Mossop, one of Hobson's former underlings. Hobson's other daughters refuse to have anything to do with him, so he has no choice but to accept Maggie's offer. It also comes with the condition that he must surrender his entire business to her and her fiance.

  • May 8, 2014
    Omrega
    The Early Edition example sounds more like Sadistic Choice.
  • August 5, 2014
    DAN004
    Buuuuuump
  • August 5, 2014
    hbi2k
    Film
    • In Rounders, the protagonist's mentor tells the story of how he was raised by a devout Jewish family with the expectation that he would become a rabbi like his father and forefathers. He was praised by his teachers for having a deep understanding of the Talmud, but he "never saw God there," so he left for New York to study law. He found great personal satisfaction in his new vocation, but his family was inconsolable and although he tried several times to mend fences, never spoke to him again. The protagonist asks if, knowing how it would turn out, if he would have made the same choice. The mentor responds, "What choice?"
  • August 5, 2014
    nitrokitty
    In the X Wing Series, Wedge Antilles uses a forced choice to trick a factory foreman into selecting a memory core sliced with Alliance code out of a lot of new cores to be sent to a high security facility.
  • August 5, 2014
    bejjinks
    There's another YKTTW on this very subject. I put an example from Night Court on that one. Or was my example deleted?

    Edit: I found it. It's called Forced Deck. What's the difference between this one and that one. Should these be merged?
  • August 5, 2014
    hbi2k
    It seems like Forced Deck is about pretending that there's a meaningful choice, when in fact all choices are identical. So it's a trope about deception.

    In this trope, the deception is over very quickly, and is there more as a joke or a commentary about the lack of options. This is more like No Except Yes; in fact, it might count as a subtrope.

    • But Thou Must:
      Me: Do you want to go right or left?
      You: Left.
      Me: Are you sure you don't want to go right?
      You: Left.
      Me: Are you sure you don't want to go right?
      You: Left.
      Me: Are you sure you don't want to go right?
      You: Right.
      Me: You have chosen to go right. Have a nice day!

    • Forced Deck:
      You: Heads I'll go right, tails I'll go left. Flip for me.
      *I flip a two-headed coin.*

    • Hobson's Choice:
      Me: You can go any way you want, as long as it's right.
  • October 24, 2014
    DAN004
  • October 25, 2014
    SvartiKotturinn
    Israelis often make this joke when someone is pregnant: 'I don't care if it's a boy or a girl, as long as there's a bris!'
  • October 25, 2014
    henke37
    Commonly happens when a form control is populated from a less than populated database.
  • October 26, 2014
    gallium
    I support the pre-existing commonly known term Hobsons Choice.
  • October 26, 2014
    DAN004
    I support original naming. :P

    Though I'm okay since Hobson's Choice is already a well-known term already, but still...
  • October 26, 2014
    Loquacia
    • Mrs Ploppy from Blackadder 2nd would cook prisoners with the death sentence whatever they wanted for their last meal... so long as it was sausages.
  • November 4, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump.

    May I grab this?
  • November 4, 2014
    hbi2k
    ^ The OP hasn't been around since 2011, so I'm going to say "yes."
  • December 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump
  • December 8, 2014
    henke37
    This tends to happen unintentionally when the choices are automatically populated from a database query.
  • December 8, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Illustrate it plz?
  • December 23, 2014
    DAN004
    Bump
  • December 30, 2014
    Espun
    Video Games
    • At the end of Iwamine Shuu's Happy Ending, while escaping from Dove agents, he asks the player if she loves him. Three choices are presented, each of which reads "YES".
  • January 13, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ That sounds like But Thou Must
  • February 19, 2015
    nielas
    A key part of this is that there are in fact two options available: do the described action or do nothing. However, the "do nothing" option is deemed to be unacceptable and thus not seen as a real choice.
  • February 19, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ available yeah, but the "do nothing" option is not given.
  • February 20, 2015
    hbi2k
    ^^ That's usually the case, but not always. For example, in the "I don't care if it's a boy or a girl as long as there's a bris" joke, there's no "do nothing" option.

    ^ I think sometimes the "do nothing" option could be given and have it still fit. For example, you decide to buy a car from me and ask for a choice of colors. I tell you that you've got two choices: buy a black car or !@#$ing walk home. The essence of the trope (I pretend you've got a choice between colors, but then pull the rug out from under you) is still there, even though "do not buy a car" is explicitly given as a choice.
  • February 20, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ that's because what you wanted from the start is choosing a color, right?
  • April 9, 2015
    DAN004
    Bump.
  • February 1, 2016
    Tylendal
    I was redirected here from the Lost and Found, for the scene in The Revenant, where Glass is told by another character who was to stay with him until he died or healed "We know you're not going to survive. I'm ready to give you your last rites, make it quick and easy for you. You just need to blink, just blink, and I'll do it for you." I'm not sure if, upon reading this page, that actually belongs here, though.
  • February 1, 2016
    ZuTheSkunk
    Does this trope cover cases where someone is offered multiple choices that are all exactly the same thing? Like how in Fallout 3, when you do the GOAT test, the last question is "Who is indisputably the most important person in Vault 101: He who shelters us from the harshness of the atomic wasteland, and to whom we owe everything we have, including our lives?", and out of 4 possible answers, all of them are "The Overseer".
  • February 1, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ there's another ykttw called Forced Deck.
  • February 2, 2016
    JoeG
    • Real Life: The Trope Namer was Thomas Hobson, who had a business renting out horses in the late 1500's and early 1600's. The people who rented his horses often rode them too hard, exhausting them, so to protect the health of his horses he kept his horses in a queue. When a horse was returned it was put at the back of the queue, and only the horse at the front of the queue would be available to be rented out.
  • March 7, 2016
    dalek955
    ^And the choice involved is? (I know, but it's not an example unless it says.)

    • In Sixteen Thirty Two, Mike Stearns is fond of framing negotiations by offering his opponents the choice between amiably negotiating with good ol' him, or offending him and being handed off to a much harsher negotiator like Gretchen Richter.

    For the Quotes page:
    One of the negotiating ploys she'd learned from Mike Stearns was the value of giving your opposite number a choice between alternatives, one of which was so unsavory that it made the other look tasty even if it wasn't a taste the person would normally enjoy at all. A standard form of that maneuver was a choice between persons: Either make a deal with me or (here a finger would be pointed to a nearby ogre) you'll have to try coming to terms with that creature. As often as not, Gretchen herself had been the ogre to whom Stearns had pointed. [...] But there was a variation on the tactic that she'd also learned from watching Stearns. It was a more subtle version in which the opposite party was given a choice between personas rather than actual persons. In essence: Either make a deal with me when I'm in a good mood and we're discussing something mutually amenable, or we can wrangle over something that puts me in a really foul mood.
  • March 7, 2016
    BKelly95
    Video Game
    • In The Secret Of Monkey Island, Melee Island's gubernatorial election seems to be going this way. Governor Marley's re-election poster bears the slogan "When there's only one candidate, there's only one choice."
  • March 22, 2016
    MegaMarioMan
    Video Game
    • In Paper Mario Sticker Star, at one point, Kersti offers to teach you about the Battle Spinner, and gives you the options of "yes" and "no". Say no enough times, and she changes your choices to "yes" and "yeah".
      You know what? Forget you! Hereā€”pick one of these answers so we can move on.
  • March 22, 2016
    randomtroper89
    Add to the laconic: take it or leave it.
  • March 25, 2016
    Chabal2
    • Akatsuki No Yona: Slavers building a fort using kidnapped laborers regularly give out wine containing an addictive opium-like drug called nadai. They don't force anyone to drink it, but as it's the only thing to drink...
    • Black Moon Chronicles: After Wis becomes Emperor, he finds a large crowd of people wanting to complain. He says he'll gladly hear their grievances, but as he's a very busy man, they'll have to make an appointment with Ghorgor Bey. Ghorgor is standing next to a bloodstained chopping block with an axe almost as big as he is and a grin almost as big as the axe. The crowd suddenly finds better things to do, to Ghorgor's undisguised disappointment.
  • March 25, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    Film
    • The ruthless cabal in Nick Of Time offer the protagonist such a choice: assassinate the turncoat Governor Grant, or not. Of course, if he doesn't comply, his daughter will be executed.
  • March 25, 2016
    updownbanana
    Video Games
    • In Undertale, during the "date" with Alphys, she says she doesn't know how she can tell Undyne that she's been lying to her. Your response options are "Let's roleplay it," and "Obviously let's roleplay it."
      • Earlier in the game, while befriending Undyne, she puts out four drinks on her cabinets and asks which one you want. The tea is labeled as "the blatantly correct choice." Only picking the tea will advance the scenario.

    EDIT: The top example is probably But Thou Must, not this.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=27lel7jmycvzkv3peepdzuun