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Poor Choice

September 21, 1986

The English language constantly evolves. Speakers come up with new ways to say things, which is mostly to the good. Sometimes, though, a new expression proves so popular that you can hardly go a day without hearing or reading it. This makes us wonder how we ever got along without it. But after a while we start wishing that we would.

We have just about reached that point with of choice --a newish adjective that means preferred but comes after the noun instead of before it, as English adjectives normally do . Our friends Amy and Roy Forbes, sister and brother, called our attention to this new cliche, which seems to be sweeping the land. In the last few weeks we have read that Mrs. Fields cookies are "a snack of choice of young urban professionals," "Dawn dishwashing liquid is the otter-cleaner of choice," "air-pistol combat is (becoming) the employee recreation of choice," "whiskey sours and highballs remain the cocktails of choice" and "theater is the medium of choice."

It's even in the comics. A punch line not long ago said, "Remember when the martini was our drug of choice?" (They obviously didn't know about whiskey sours and highballs.) And, of course, Madison Avenue could not be far behind. "Austin Reed is the clothing of choice," says the copy in a current advertisement.

As best we can tell, this phrase originated in medicine, where doctors talk about the "treatment of choice." Maybe people think that they sound highfalutin when they borrow this expression and apply it to otter cleaners, employee recreations and chocolate-chip cookies, but for us it is not the phrase of choice.

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