One trick pony

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Tue Jul 9 17:39:22 UTC 2013

At 7/9/2013 01:08 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
>1905   Oregon Pioneer Assoc. 32nd Ann. Reunion 264   Among the
>earliest of mundane things remembered are the resplendent red shirts
>of the volunteer firemen, conspicuous in every Fourth of July parade;
>the marvels that were seen at the first one-tent, one-clown,
>one-trick-pony, pioneer Oregon circus.
>While searching for examples of "one trick pony" (hyphenation varies)
>an important question emerged.
>Does "one" modify "trick" or does "one" modify "trick pony"? In the
>modern phrase "one" modifies "trick". However, in the 1905 citation
>above I suspect that "one" modifies "trick pony". Note that within the
>sentence: "one" modifies "tent" and "one" modifies "clown".

I think in the 1905 quotation it's a pony of one trick.  "One-tent"
and "one-clown" suggest to me a one-ring, penny-ante circus for a
one-horse town, a circus whose pony can only produce one trick.  If
the writer meant the circus had only one "trick pony" -- would a
circus have any other kind of performing pony? -- I think he would
have left out the word "trick".


The American Dialect Society -

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