Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

First Q here. If this has been asked before sorry (Did search)

Term for a choice that you like and you dislike? And you can/would probably only take the choice you like.

For example:

A justice department lawyer says to you "Either testify or go to prison for 25 to life". Or "Enter witness protection or Vito is going to put you in the ground".

In the above statements, we have two choices. But only one choice is viable. "To testify", or "Enter witness protection".

What is such a choice called? (It can not be called a dilemma).

share|improve this question
1  
Sorry for my use of an Italian name. No offence meant to anyone. –  One-One May 24 at 0:26
1  
that's a form of extortion/blackmail. –  Matthaeus May 24 at 1:48
1  
@Matthaeus Based on the definition, extortion definitely fits better. You should post it as an answer. –  Patrick May 24 at 2:54
    
Not precisely what you're asking but, "between a rock and hard place" is often used in this sort of situation. –  Joe Blow May 24 at 7:13
    
You know what I actually believe is the clearest and most common expression for this in English? I'll tell you ... "...no real choice...". He had no real choice in the matter. –  Joe Blow May 24 at 7:14

5 Answers 5

up vote 1 down vote accepted

How about the Hobson's choice?

Hobson's choice: a situation in which you are supposed to make a choice but do not have a real choice because there is only one thing you can have or do.

share|improve this answer
    
Hmm en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson's_choice I think it is closest to what I describe in my question. Had to look it up. Can you include the link to Wikipedia in your answer like [MyAnswer](Link) because comments can be deleted anytime. And I will accept. Thanks. –  One-One May 24 at 0:36
    
This is a type of dilemma though. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilemma –  ermanen May 24 at 0:38
    
BTW I got to learn something in the process. Thank you. –  One-One May 24 at 0:39
4  
'Hobson's choice' is really the choice of taking what is offered or nothing at all -there was never a choice –  Third News May 24 at 2:18
    
That;s a good point, it's not "really" a "Hobson's choice"! –  Joe Blow May 24 at 7:12

An offer you can't refuse?

If the other alternative is unacceptable, then you have no real choice. This was made famous in the film The Godfather, when Marlon Brando's character Don Corleone said, "Make him an offer he can't refuse."

share|improve this answer
    
Is there no English alternative apart from a fiction writer's character's dialogue? –  One-One May 24 at 0:29
1  
Actually, it's a longtime English expression, which usually (until The Godfather) meant to make a very attractive offer. The film used it ironically, in that the offer made was attractive only by comparison to a horrible alternative. It's the idea behind extortion. –  Drew May 24 at 0:35
2  
You could say that the question/choice is a no-brainer. There is really no contest between a very good choice and a very bad choice. –  Drew May 24 at 0:38
    
I believe you have no real choice, other than to use 'no real choice'. IMO that simple phrase in English is the only one that, really, is just what you're saying. –  Joe Blow May 24 at 7:15

This type of choice might often be called a no-brainer because the correct solution is so obvious. You might also be thinking of Hobson's choice which is a choice where only one of the options is valid (e.g. 'take it or leave it' is an example of Hobson's choice), Hobson's choice may also be thought of as an ultimatum.

share|improve this answer
    
Now I know it was Hobson's choice. A no-brainer would be an American term and not British or used in any Anglophone countries. Nevertheless +1 –  One-One May 24 at 0:41

A less metaphoric phrase might be a foregone conclusion.

Definition of FOREGONE CONCLUSION

1 : a conclusion that has preceded argument or examination 2 : an inevitable result : certainty

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foregone%20conclusion

share|improve this answer

An idiom:

between Scylla and Charybdis

between two equally perilous alternatives, neither of which can be passed without encountering and probably falling victim to the other.

share|improve this answer
1  
I think the question is trying to say there is a good option as well as a bad option, and since no normal person would pick the bad option, it wasn't really a choice in the first place. In this idiom, both choices are bad, which is a different situation, I believe. Your answer would fit on english.stackexchange.com/questions/38243/… though. –  Patrick May 24 at 2:36
    
@Patrick "And you can/would probably only take the choice you like." Sounds like a choice to me –  Third News May 24 at 2:38
    
Sorry, I wasn't trying to imply that you had no choice, but rather that one of the choices wasn't so bad whereas Scylla and Charybdis are both kind of awful. –  Patrick May 24 at 2:41
    
@Patrick Maybe it is just me but "prison for 25 to life" or "Enter witness protection or Vito is going to put you in the ground" both suck equally –  Third News May 24 at 2:44
    
I think that means there's an incongruity between the question as asked and the examples provided since it states there's one option you like and one option you don't like. –  Patrick May 24 at 2:47

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.