Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Make Good Choices

Posted by Neal on December 31, 2009

Back in 2004, and again in 2007, I wrote about the unusual use of choose and choice among teachers and school administrators I’ve encountered. Now, like my posts on back to school and troops, these two have been combined and expanded into a Visual Thesaurus column, augmented with corpus data and interviews with education professionals.

In the article, there is a link to a 1953 article that employs the phrase make good choices, and here I have to confess: It was Visual Thesaurus CEO Ben Zimmer who found that attestation, which was significantly earlier than what I’d found. (The guy’s good!) What didn’t make it into the article, though, is the fact that make good choices is well-attested during the 20th century in the Google News Archive; it’s just that until the 1980s or so, most of them are irrelevant. Mostly what you get for “make good choices” before then is stuff like this:

  • The flowered silks make good choices for the Spring suit if one does not care for plaid. (1914)
  • The short two-button length in white kid make good choices as gifts for the holiday season. (1938)
  • Dried prunes and filberts will make good choices. (1958)
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2 Responses to “Make Good Choices”

  1. johnwcowan said

    Even in a tyranny, one does choose to obey or disobey: everyone is free in that sense. Of course, this is not what we ordinarily call either freedom or choice.

  2. Charles Pinneo said

    Why not just tell a student who is misbehaving, “Don’t do that.” I’m a retired teacher and it’s my opinion that most teachers have lost much of their disciplinary power and are often afraid of parents. The Republicans have successfully destroyed public education and weakened the teachers unions to the point that charter schools and private schools have basically stolen all the better students from public schools, the result being that public schools are left with mostly poor minority students. Telling a student that he should make a better choice is like a negotiation. Telling him not to do it is more direct, simpler, and commands respect. There are situations in school where you have to be somewhat confrontational.

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