- Regarding "pony" as money: This usage can be dated to the early 19th century and gave rise to the expression to pony up, meaning "to come up with money".
- Regarding "pony" as an elusive and unlikely positive outcome: This usage appears to derive two separate sources, leading to slightly different connotations.
- The first form comes from a joke, most often attributed to Ronald Reagan, known as the "pony joke". Presidential speechwriter and author Peter Robinson recounts the joke: "Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging. 'What do you think you’re doing?' the psychiatrist asked. 'With all this manure,' the little boy replied, beaming, 'there must be a pony in here somewhere.'" This meaning was utilized by authors Kara Swisher and Lisa Dickey in the title of their book There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: The AOL Time Warner Debacle and the Quest for a Digital Future, published in 2003 by Crown Business Books. It is also used frequently by political bloggers, such as Atrios, to refer derisively to the Bush administration's pursuit of success in the Iraq War. Example: "So McCain/Lieberman will pretend the Dems thwarted the plan for victory, even though the president will be the one who won't let them find the pony in Iraq."
- The second form is apparently derived from a 1987 Calvin & Hobbes cartoon in which Susie, Calvin's nemesis, bemoans his treatment of her: "I wish I had a hundred friends. Then I wouldn't care. I'd say, 'Who needs you, Calvin? I've got a hundred other friends!' Then my hundred friends and I would go do something fun, and leave Calvin all alone! Ha! ... and as long as I'm dreaming, I'd like a pony." Political bloggers, particularly on the left, have taken to this meaning when describing a positive outcome that depends on an unlikely event. As described by blogger Belle Waring: "You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony! So, in [Josh] Chafetz' case, he should not only wish that Bush would say a lot of good things about democracy-building and fighting terrorism in a speech written for him by a smart person, he should also wish that Bush should actually mean the things he says and enact policies which reflect this, and he should wish that everyone gets a pony."
- I'm reasonably certain "pony" as "unobtanium" is older than the Gulf War (1991). The Household Journal, volumes 5-6, 1912 (also Farm Journal #36, 1912) featured an [ad https://books.google.com/books?id=gzZJAQAAMAAJ&dq=%22i%20want%20a%20pony%22&pg=RA2-PA43#v=onepage&q=%22i%20want%20a%20pony%22&f=false] imploring youngsters to send postcards saying "I want a pony" in hopes of receiving one gratis. I have no doubt that households in their readership were inundated with requests for postcards and stamps, and were disappointed months later when a pony never arrived, prompting innumerable conversations teaching children about advertising out of reach, and perhaps about ponies being expensive to keep (after all, they eat like (little) horses). Perhaps a real lexicographer can find a suitable usage example of "pony" as implausible. -- Ke4roh (talk) 13:05, 13 November 2017 (UTC)
Here's a quandry: The phrase pony and trap as a vehicle is derived (if we can use that word for an ordinary phrase) from pony sense one ("any of several small breeds of horse") and trap sense eight ("light two-wheeled carriage with springs"). Yet pony sense six ("crap, rubbish, nonsense") is derived from Cockney rhyming slang pony and trap. So, which is the derived term and which the source? Cnilep (talk) 03:45, 8 July 2013 (UTC)
- I think it does occur occasionally, but it isn't the standard pronunciation. — Mnemosientje (t · c) 09:20, 23 September 2019 (UTC)
- Yes, sometimes, for the type of horse. I don't remember hearing it for the hairstyle. -- Curious (talk) 18:07, 23 September 2019 (UTC)