Choice or choices

This is the place to post questions and discussions on usage and style. The members of the Wordwizard Clubhouse will also often be able to help you to formulate that difficult letter.

Choice or choices

Post by Yorkie57 » Wed Jul 06, 2005 9:58 pm

Buying a carton of milk in a small shop yesterday I was told I had two choices, full fat or skim. As I was only buying one carton I see this as one choice of two things, not two choices. Two choices surely implies I get to choose twice ?
I am convinced I am right, but hopelessly outnumbered by workmates who agree with the "two choices" version.
Comments from the wise please.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Choice or choices

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Jul 06, 2005 11:50 pm

Allan, The simplest argument that I can think of against your proposal is that it would imply that CHOICE has no plural, since you would never have more than one choice. But 'choice' clearly does – unless the dictionaries it appears in are mistaken. An interesting thought, though!
______________________________

Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

CHOICE: 3c) a person or thing available, fit, or likely to be picked out or designated <"several CHOICES for the nomination">
______________________________

Random House Unabridged Dictionary

CHOICE: the person or thing chosen or eligible to be chosen: <“He is one of many CHOICES for the award.”
______________________________

If one examines usage in books, news media, journals, etc., one notices that TWO CHOICES has been used without reservation for many years. It appeared 4443 times in the pages of the New York Times between 1852 and today, appearing 413 times since 1 January of this year alone. It appeared in Time Magazine 110 times between 1931 and today, . . . . . . . . So unless all these folks are gravely mistaken and the above dictionaries are wrong, I’m afraid your workmates are right and you're going to have to eat crow!
<1871 “In dealing with William the Conqueror there were only TWO CHOICES, unconditional submission and resistance to the last.”–‘The History of the Norman Conquest’ by Freeman, IV. xviii. page 146> [[from the OED]]

<1897 “TWO CHOICES remain—to derive the name from ‘olla,’ . . . making it in some way to refer to the personal appearance . . . ; or preferably to explain it as standing for avulus, ‘little grandfather.’”—‘Harvard Studies in Classical Philology,’ Vol. 8, page 153>

<2005 “Pantano, they say, was caught in a combat situation in which he had just two choices: hold fire and risk his life and those of his men, or shoot to kill.”–'Time Magazine,' 7 March>
Ken G – July 6, 2005
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Choice or choices

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jul 07, 2005 12:13 am

.. so how do we account for the phrase .. I had no choice. or There was no choice. .. or what if the shopkeeper had've said .. "You have a choice, skim or full cream." all of these phrases use "choice" in the singular but just as easy could've used "choices" .. Yorkie the power scribes may be against you .. AND Ken too .. but don't give up the fight mate I agree with your reasoning but that counts for little ..

WoZ of Aus 07/07/05
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Choice or choices

Post by Alton » Thu Jul 07, 2005 2:37 am

It seems to me that you have missed somthing Ken. Allan was asked to exercise his mind to make one choice, to choose one of skim milk or full cream and this would have remained the case had the shopkeeper offered even more variety, i.e. buttermilk, chocolate milk and clotted cream. But taken from the points of view of the various milk products, (stick with me I'm not crazy),each of these is a potential candidate or choice of Allan's. Therefore from this pertspective there are several potential choices But Allan only chooses one and it is his final sole choice. I feel he is right and his mates are right it all depends on wheather you consider Allan's action or the milk's.
Is milk capable of action? That is the next question.

Isn't English fun? Alton
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: R.A.J. Metcalfe

Choice or choices

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jul 07, 2005 2:58 am

I think Alton has the right idea. If one interprets 'choice' as referring to the act of making a selection of one kind of milk from among more than one variety, Allan only has one choice. But if 'choice' is interpreted as referring to the object of the process of choosing, then Allan has as many choices as there are alternative kinds of milk on offer. So in this instance, the word 'choice' is ambiguous, and one's view of how many choices Allan has will depend on whether one's focus is on the action of choosing or the potential objects of the choosing.

Now, as to whether milk is capable of action... Well, judging from the above postings, milk is clearly capable of producing a reaction. And from Newton's third Law of Motion, we know that an equal and opposite reaction always results from an action. Hence we may infer that milk is probably capable of action.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

Choice or choices

Post by russcable » Thu Jul 07, 2005 5:02 am

He has any number of choices (including zero) as the grocer's statement is not meant prevent his buying 3 of one AND 4 of the other or no milk at all should he prefer an option not listed or even change his mind.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Choice or choices

Post by Bobinwales » Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:33 am

If Yorkie's shopkeeper had offered him a "choice of either A or B", there would not have been an argument. As it is Yorkie was being asked to make a choice, and if you are asked to make a choice I do not see how you can have choices. I agree with Yorkie on this one, in spite of what his countrymen have just done to the Lions.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Choice or choices

Post by Phil White » Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:53 am

I'm with Alton and Erik on this one. Either is fine, but the meaning in each case is somewhat different.
"You have three choices: red, green or blue. Now make your choice."
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Choice or choices

Post by Shelley » Thu Jul 07, 2005 1:40 pm

Is milk capable of action? That is the next question. -- Alton
Now, as to whether milk is capable of action . . . -- Erik_Kowal
Mais oui: have you never seen a milk shake? (English IS fun comment from the un-wise.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Choice or choices

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Jul 07, 2005 3:54 pm

Gentleman and gentlewoman, Hmm. I certainly see what is being said about the act of ‘making the choice’ as distinguished from ‘the object chosen,’ but seems to me that any ambiguity in this particular example is resolved by examining the use of number (2 or 1 choice) + the conjunctions (AND or OR) connecting the choices:
<“Buying a carton of milk in a small shop yesterday I was told I had two choices, full fat or skim. As I was only buying one carton I see this as one choice of two things, not two choices. Two choices surely implies I get to choose twice?”>
When the ‘smart’ shopkeeper said there are two choices A OR B, I would have to assume that he/she meant exactly what they said and that they must have been referring to the ‘object chosen’ and not the ‘act of choosing.’ If he/she had been referring to the act of choosing they would have had to say ‘two choices A AND B’ or ‘one choice A OR B' (the exclusive ‘or’) and that would unambiguously have eliminated ‘the object chosen’ possibility. But since he/she said ‘two choices A OR B’ one must assume that they were referring to the object chosen.
__________________

Ken G – July 7, 2005
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Choice or choices

Post by Alton » Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:35 pm

Allan had to make a "choice". In this case choice is used as a verb.
Each of the objects was one potential "choice". In this case it is used as a noun. It is easy to confuse the two but we are refering to an action and seperately some objects these are not oppisite ends of the same thing. It would be perhaps less confusing if a different word were used to describe them than choice.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: R.A.J. Metcalfe

Choice or choices

Post by Phil White » Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:13 pm

Sorry, "choice" is a noun in both cases. "Choose" is the verb.
If it were a verb, I would be able to say *"I choice the red one". (The asterisk is the traditional way of marking ungrammaticality in lingusitics.)
It is a noun with two related, but different senses.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Choice or choices

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Jul 07, 2005 9:25 pm

Alton, In the above, CHOICE is not used as verb, it’s used as a noun and the verb is MAKE.

<“Allan had to make a "choice". In this case choice is used as a verb.”>

I think what you were probably wanted to say was "in this case ‘choice’ referred to the ‘act of making a choice’ as opposed to ‘the object chosen.’" But in either case, they are nouns.
__________________

Ken G – July 7, 2005
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Choice or choices

Post by Yorkie57 » Thu Jul 07, 2005 10:22 pm

I just linked to the Compact Oxford English Dictionary which gives one meaning of choice as "a range from which to choose". It does not describe each object as a choice but the range of objects which, I feel, backs up my original argument.
Ken - Thousands of appearances in the New York Times and Time magazine do not necessarily make it correct. Now if you had quoted the British version .................
BobinWales - Maybe the Lions will do better this Saturday.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Choice or choices

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Jul 08, 2005 5:12 am

BobinWales,
"... spite of what his countrymen have just done to the Lions."
.. now Sir Clive Woodabeen had a choice .. to choose little Jonny at position one (Test1) or position two (Test2) .. seems his 3rd choice .. don't choose him at all might have been the one to go with .. actually Sir Clive gave himself too many choices but never chose a "team" .. *sigh* .. *sings* .. three nil three nil three nil three nil ..

WoZ of Aus 08/07/05
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Post Reply