Anecdote: There=?windows-1252?Q?=92s_?=got to be a pony somewhere. (February 1953)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 17 19:04:00 UTC 2013

Garson, that's essentially the version I remember from Kirkwood's novel.

Except, of course, that it as "horse shit," not "fertilizer."


On Sun, Nov 17, 2013 at 1:37 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:
>  =?windows-1252?Q?Anecdote=3A_There=92s_got_to_be_a_pony_somewhere
>               =2E_=28Feb?= =?windows-1252?Q?ruary_1953=29?=
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> LH wrote:
>  I'm sure Reagan didn't invent his beloved story about the boy who was
> delighted to be sent to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure
> "because there's gotta be a pony in here somewhere".
> JL wrote:
> I read it in James Kirkwood's novel, "There Must be a Pony!" (1960).
> JL also wrote:
> I see Charlie found a reference from 1958. (Dictionary of Modern Proverbs:
> highly recommended.)
> [Text from previous messages ends here]
> Google Books has matches that are supposedly dated in the 1940s for
> the anecdote about optimism, manure, and a hypothetical pony.
> Investigation shows that some of the dates are simply incorrect.
> Probing shows that some of the volumes with matches contain material
> from several years including the 1950s. At this point I do not know if
> GB contains an earlier citation.
> However, here is a citation with a publication date 1953 from an
> online repository of material from an Alcoholics Anonymous group. The
> repository is not part of a library but it looks authentic.
> [ref] 1953 February, Central Bulletin, Volume 11, Number 4,
> (Newsletter for Alcoholics Anonymous subgroup), A Giggle with a Moral,
> Quote Page 2, Column 1, Published by Cleveland Central Committee of
> Alcoholics Anonymous, Cleveland, Ohio. (Online repository at
>; PDF of scanned pages; accessed November 17, 2013)[/ref]
>       (This link leads to a 6 megabyte file)
> [Begin excerpt]
> The parents of identical twins were plagued by the fact that one was a
> cheerful optimist and his brother a morbid pessimist. Not knowing how
> to cope with the problem, they sought the advice of a psychiatrist. He
> pondered a few moments and then made a proposal.
> “Go home,” he told the parents, “and fill one room with
> toys-everything that a boy desires. Have all the packages beautifully
> gift-wrapped. Put the pessimist in this room at 7:30 tomorrow morning.
> “Fill the other room with fertilizer-and maybe a shovel-but that’s
> all. Put the optimist in this room at 7:30. I’ll be around at 9
> o’clock and we shall see what we see.”
> Next morning the psychiatrist was prompt. He followed the parents into
> the room with the wonderful toys. The kid was slouched in a chair with
> a dejected look on his face. He hadn’t even removed the gift
> wrappings. “What’s the use?” he asked glumly,  “I probably won’t like
> what I find-and if I do, I won’t get to keep it.”
> A marked contrast greeted them in the other room. With a broad grin on
> his face, the optimist was shoveling for all he was worth. “With all
> this fertilizer,” he declared, “there’s got to be a pony somewhere.”
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
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