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I came across this phrase while reading an article by Paul Krugman on the New York Times website. Here's the quotation (emphasis added):

… non-GIPSI [the group of Eurozone nations – Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland – that are grappling with the debt crisis, my note] European leaders should realize that what the GIPSIs really need is a general European reflation. So let's hope that they get this, and also give each of us a pony.

Now, I understand that this is a sort of witty remark, but I cannot figure out what he's referring to. I know that there's a horse breed named “Gypsy”, but I suspect there may be another reference—an idiomatic one, perhaps—I don't know of.

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Both are obviously used in a derogatory sense, but that seems to me as being more a sort of memory trick. However, could anyone come up with a less disparaging acronym? (By the way, I'm Italian myself, but this designation doesn't annoy me that much. They're only economists, after all.) –  Giorgiomastrò Jun 11 '12 at 12:16
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Pretty weak attempt at humour trying to link the 'pony' phrase and traditional and stereotypical views on Romany folk. May be he couldn't make his PIIGS and 'purse out of a sow's ear' theme work. GIPSI was the fallback choice. –  Qube Jun 11 '12 at 12:29
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And here I thought a pony was a measure of hard liquor, like being ⅔ of a jigger. –  tchrist Jun 11 '12 at 13:14
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picture here: c2.com/cgi/wiki?IwantaPony –  GEdgar Jun 11 '12 at 13:51
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fwiw: You've missed the actual american idiom. The Urban Dictionary reference, while valid, does not actually tell you anything about the idiom. It's actually quite customary for there to be an attribution that a young girl demands a pony for her birthday when she belongs to a wealthy family, and is seen as an unfair, albeit commonly understood as normal, gift/demand. –  jcolebrand Jun 11 '12 at 14:30
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5 Answers 5

up vote 32 down vote accepted

For me, the phrase "Give each of us a pony" means literally "give each of us a gift of a horse."

Ponies, as far as I know, are regarded as a status symbol among certain circles. (Imagine a young girl in a well-to-do family requesting her father this for a birthday present).

So, for me, saying "give each of us a pony" is equivalent to "give each of us a Jaguar/ yacht/ swimming pool etc.," which was meant with humor.

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Are you allowed to look a pony in the mouth? :) –  tchrist Jun 11 '12 at 13:15
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To be honest, "give us each a pony" makes me think of the rantings of a pretentious teenage girl wanting her own young horse that she can learn to ride as it gets older, as a sign of wealth and prestige. To me your answer was the most correct, even tho the asker went with the most upvoted question, without understanding actual American idioms. –  jcolebrand Jun 11 '12 at 14:28
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The way I see it, the goal for all of us here is to arrive at the most accurate info possible, so that it may serve as reference to future learners. We managed to arrive at that through trial-and-error. So I say good job to all of us –  Cool Elf Jun 11 '12 at 15:27
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What I miss from this answer is exactly that emphasis on the implied impossibility of the fact. –  Vinko Vrsalovic Jun 11 '12 at 15:57
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I see. Sorry for being so touchy, but writing on the internet has its own downsides, as it's more difficult to understand the real intentions of those you talk with. –  Giorgiomastrò Jun 11 '12 at 16:28
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The idea is that as long as you're wishing for the impossible, you might as well wish for other desirable things (such as a pony) too. So Krugman is sarcastically pointing out that "a general European reflation" is wishful thinking.

This use of "... and a pony" to point sarcastically to wishful economic and political thinking comes from Belle Waring's 2004 blog post "If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride -- A Pony!"

I'd like to note, though, that [Josh] Chafetz is selling himself short. You see, wishes are totally free. It's like when you can't decide whether to daydream about being a famous Hollywood star or having amazing magical powers. Why not -- be a famous Hollywood star with amazing magical powers! Along these lines, John [Holbo] has developed an infallible way to improve any public policy wishes. You just wish for the thing, plus, wish that everyone would have their own pony! So, in 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. See?

John Holbo got the pony idea from a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon by Bill Watterson, first published in 1987 and described here:

Susie wipes a tear from her eye. She wonders why Calvin is so mean. She wishes she had a hundred friends, then she wouldn't care what Calvin said. She goes on to say she and her hundred friends would go do something fun and leave Calvin all alone. But then, Susie sits down. She says that as long as she's dreaming, she also wants a pony.

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Maybe what Krugram really wants is a squirrel.

I see it as Krugman making a metaphor. Krugman is comparing GIPSI to a spoiled child (like Veruca Salt of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" fame), and non-GIPSI to Mr. Salt. Veruca is making an unreasonable demand and Mr. Salt wants to accommodate to keep Veruca happy, but it is not clear Mr. Salt can.

We can take Krugman as Veruca's brother. If Veruca gets a pony, he wants one too.

Source: http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0003692/quotes

Veruca Salt: Daddy, I want a squirrel. Get me one of those squirrels, I want one!

Mr. Salt: Veruca dear, you have many marvelous pets.

Veruca Salt: All I've got at home is one pony and two dogs and four cats and six bunny rabbits and two parakeets and three canaries and a green parrot and a turtle, and a silly old hamster! I WANT a SQUIRREL!

Mr. Salt: All right, pet. Daddy'll get you a squirrel just as soon as he possibly can.

Veruca Salt: But I don't want any old squirrel! I want a trained squirrel!

Mr. Salt: [wearily] Very well. Mr. Wonka? How much do you want for one of these squirrels? Name your price.

Willy Wonka: Oh they're not for sale. She can't have one.

Veruca Salt: Daddy!

Willy Wonka: [imitating Mr. Salt] I'm sorry, darling. Mr. Wonka's being unreasonable.

Veruca Salt: Daddy, I want another pony.

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Perfect quote to illustrate the pretention of the request. Good job. –  jcolebrand Jun 11 '12 at 14:46
    
No sweeter way to drive a point than quoting from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Thanks guys! :-) –  Cool Elf Jun 11 '12 at 15:05
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This does not really answer the question. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jun 11 '12 at 16:44
    
Though this seems to nail the provenance of the idea, please make it an actual answer, adding some explanation. –  Mitch Jun 11 '12 at 17:21
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@jcolebrand: OK, I have no real idea, but since sarcasm wasn't invented until Raoul Dahl, it just seems right that this was the first. Except for maybe Shakespeare. –  Mitch Jun 11 '12 at 21:24
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"I want a pony" is a slang phrase, usually used in reply to someone's request for something impossible.

From the Urban Dictionary:

"We want a copy protection solution that's 100% unbreakable."

"Yes, and I want a pony."

In this context, it reads to me that while the author would very much like a solution to the Eurozone crisis, he doesn't believe it's actually possible. I don't think it's anything to do with a pony meaning £25.

Here are two more examples:

Health care sectors get funding restraint… and a pony.

...where everyone can get all the health care they want for almost no money. And a pony.

After a little more research, it turns out that the origin of the meme may have come from Calvin and Hobbes (search for "and a pony" in this page).

"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." - Susie

I'm probably familiar with it because it's been popularised in IT by Jeff Atwood, a well-known author, blogger and speaker.

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I like your explanation. Krugman's style includes lots of quips and ironical remarks, so I think you got it right. –  Giorgiomastrò Jun 11 '12 at 10:49
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I agree. Krugman seems to be saying that the likelihood that European leaders will realise what he has suggested as the solution is as likely that they'll give him and his readers ponies. –  Matt Эллен Jun 11 '12 at 11:05
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Found a similar use here: angry-economist.russnelson.com/and-a-pony.html –  Lunivore Jun 11 '12 at 13:02
    
I quite agree an NYT writer would never allude to the UK (Cockney) slang "pony=£25" like that. I imagine it derives from the idea that indulgent (and rich) parents might give their daughter a pony for her birthday - as picked up by Hasbro's My little pony –  FumbleFingers Jun 11 '12 at 14:19
    
Found another, so I've edited the post to include them. –  Lunivore Jun 11 '12 at 15:42
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It's common in America to talk about a child wanting a pony as a request or demand for an extravagant gift. Little girls especially traditionally see a pony as the ultimate toy. In my own family, for example, since my daughter was old enough to understand money, any time we had an unexpected expense she would jokingly say, "That money could have gone to my pony fund", or when I got a pay raise she would say, "That can go to the pony fund." Of course few families really buy a pony for their child: it's too expensive and impractical. Where would the average family keep a pony in an urban apartment?

So Krugman is concluding his article by saying what he hopes European leaders will do to solve the fiscal crisis. If he stopped there, the sentence would be understood to mean that he thinks that this is a reasonable expectation, that he thinks it likely that they will, in fact, do this. But by tacking on "and also give each of us a pony", he's saying that, like a parent whose child asks for a pony for her birthday, they will likely view his suggestion as a totally unrealistic, fantasy request.

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This is a correct answer. See also c2.com/cgi/wiki?IwantaPony –  Christoffer Hammarström Jun 11 '12 at 15:47
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protected by RegDwigнt Jun 12 '12 at 9:31

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