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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Nov 18 00:13:13 UTC 2013

On Nov 17, 2013, at 2:04 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> Garson, that's essentially the version I remember from Kirkwood's novel.
> Except, of course, that it as "horse shit," not "fertilizer."
> JL

I'd opt to split the difference with "(horse) manure", as in "She was just a farmer's daughter, but all the horse manure".

> On Sun, Nov 17, 2013 at 1:37 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
> adsgarsonotoole at> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> 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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