Hobson's choice

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Sat Jul 6 18:14:45 UTC 2013

At 7/5/2013 08:11 PM, Dave Wilton wrote:
>EEBO has a cite of "Hobson's choise" from 1659.
>Anon, "A Word to Purpose: Or, A Parthian Dart," 1659, n.p.
>pp. 13-14:
>"But is it not meant a Free State, that every one shall be free to do that
>which is good in his own eyes, or that every one shall be free to do what he
>hath power enough to do, or that every one shall be free in Hobson's choise,
>to take, enjoy, or have what the Army will suffer us to take, enjoy, or
>have, or nothing? or Free in paying the Souldiers, or Free to doe what the
>Army would have us."
>And yes, that epitaph does appear to reference his letting out only one
>horse at a time, expressing irony that six horses are pulling his coffin.

At first, I thought that six "carriers" -- coffin bearers, humans --
would be unlikely to be compared to the one horse of Hobson.  But
then I remembered that the verb "carry" once meant "convey,
transport" -- so the six "carriers" are likely the horses, as Dave suggests.


>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
>ADSGarson O'Toole
>Sent: Friday, July 05, 2013 4:08 PM
>Subject: Re: Hobson's choice
>I meant to say: OED has a citation for the phrase Hobson's choice in
>1660 and that seems to be the earliest currently known. ...
>On Fri, Jul 5, 2013 at 3:57 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
><adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> > OED has a citation from Hobson's choice in 1660 and that seems to be
> > the earliest currently known. Back on 2009 Fred sent a message to the
> > ADS list about the term when he was searching Early English Books
> > Online. The 1660 cite was the earliest cite in EEBO in 2009. Has
> > anyone searched EEBO or other appropriate databases recently?
> >
> > I was asked to explore this term and have a question for list members.
> > The book below contained several epitaphs for "Hobson the Carrier".
> > Further below is one epitaph. Do you think this epitaph might refer to
> > the choice of a single horse (or carrier) that was offered by Hobson?
> > Does the phrase "Six Carriers" refer to the group carrying a coffin
> > (i.e., pallbearers, though the term was no yet in use, apparently)?
> > Alternatively, could it refer to a team of horses?
> >
> > Year: 1640
> > Title: Witts recreations: Selected from the finest Fancies of Moderne
> > Muses: With A Thousand out Landish Proverbs
> > Author: George Herbert; William Marshall
> > Publisher: London : Printed by R[ichard] H[odgkinson and Thomas Paine]
> > for Humphry Blunden at the Castle in Corn-hill (The above
> > bibliographic data is from WorldCat)
> >
> > http://books.google.com/books?id=j7_bpWjze40C&q=carriage
> >
> > [Begin excerpt]
> > He that such carriage store, was wont to have, Is carried now himselfe
> > unto his grave:
> > O strange! he that in life ne're made but one, Six Carriers makes, now
> > he is dead and gone.
> > [End excerpt]
> >
> > Garson
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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