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The term Wine! Because you never got a pony appeared in a meme on my social media. My first reaction was to question if there was a spelling mistake, i.e.

Whine! Because you never got a pony

would mean that someone should complain due to the lack of a pony.

But what does the original phrase mean? Is it simply a misspelling?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Jun 30 '17 at 23:27

11 Answers 11

102

This is more of a question about culture than about language. There is a certain stereotype in Anglo-American culture of children, and particularly girls, having a particular affection or fondness for horses. Some explanations are covered in brief in an episode of All Things Considered, in a Kitchen Sisters segment called Why Do Girls Love Horses, Unicorns And Dolphins?.

Regardless of the level of truth in the stereotype, there does exist a genre of stories of horse-loving girls like the Woodbury Pony Club series and frequent references in popular culture, like the season 3 episode of The Simpsons, "Lisa's Pony." The reality is that although these novels make horse ownership seem accessible, it is realistic only for the very privileged (this is, in fact, the plot driver in the Simpsons episode). The vast majority of children who beg for a pony will never have one of their own— it is, indeed, the kind of childhood fantasy that most will laugh at as adults.

Wine! Because you never got a pony suggests that the one substitutes or compensates for the other. In other words, you were denied a pony as a child, but you can drink wine as an adult— to enjoy it, but also to rue your unreachable childhood dream, and therein lies the humor.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist Jun 30 '17 at 23:27
  • I don't think it has as much to do with ponies as it does to do with wine. I don't think ponies have anything to do with the message at all. – fredsbend Jun 30 '17 at 23:50
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    "never got a pony" is a commonplace phrase in English, just meaning, humorously, "I had an unhappy childhood". That's all there is to it. it has nothing, whatsoever, at all, to do with culture, girls, the Simpsons or anything else mentioned here. It's just one of 1000s of "humor phrases" common in English. It's astounding so much has appeared on this page – Fattie Jul 3 '17 at 1:06
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    @Fattie I've never heard "never got a pony" meaning "I had an unhappy childhood". Children wishing for a pony is a common point in humor, and saying I "never got a pony" is just saying I never got everything I dreamt of as a child. If it wasn't allusive, if it were just a baked-in metaphor, it wouldn't be humorous. – prosfilaes Jul 3 '17 at 5:52
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    hi @prosfilaes , correct, you understand correctly. ("never got everything I wanted" "had a wildly rich childhood in comparison to my WW2 era grandparents" "slightly unhappy childhood" "was underprivileged" "was a bit spolied" etc etc - any slight shade of meaning in that vein of humor.) – Fattie Jul 3 '17 at 12:50
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The construction of the sentence:

Wine! Because you never got a pony.

mimics the construction of other well-known advertising slogans, where the advertised product is named, followed by the slogan. The cosmetics manufacturer L'Oreal uses a slogan which is very similar to the wine meme slogan:

L'Oreal. Because you're worth it.

The meme is intended as a funny, "unofficial" advertisement for wine.

As to the meaning of the "Because you never got a pony" slogan, the implication is that when you were younger, you wanted a pony. However, your parents did not get you one, and now, as an adult, you resent that, and have resorted to drinking wine to drown your sorrows.

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    A quick google of the sentence in question brings up pictures like this one which (to me, anyway) pretty definitively shows that this is the correct answer. – SomethingDark Jun 28 '17 at 23:05
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This is a variation on the Wine O'Clock theme: What time is it? it's always Wine O'Clock!

The basic premise of the quote is that everybody needs wine, but as cover you may need some kind of excuse, however implausible, in case a hypothetical spoil sport asks why you are having wine.

So the tongue-in-cheek potted cynical response would be, we drink because we are emotionally damaged due to a deprived childhood. The pony contrivance is shorthand for this. In other words, the person is not, heaven forbid, alcohol dependant, but deserving of sympathy, rather than judgement or intervention.

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    Very much this; I am baffled by everyone saying that the primary interpretation is a pun. It's essentially the same bumper sticker as Wine! Because adulting is hard or Wine: because no great story has ever started with someone eating a salad, or Wine: because kids. By the same token, you can get Whiskey! Because you never got a pony T-shirts as well. – choster Jun 28 '17 at 18:55
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    @choster using the bulk of that comment to preface your answer _ It's essentially the same bumper sticker as Wine! Because adulting is hard or Wine: because no great story has ever started with someone eating a salad, or Wine: because kids. By the same token, you can get Whiskey! Because you never got a pony T-shirts as well _ would make it very clear (which your answer now does only in part, at its very end) that slogans like these are very commonly alcohol-related, and then you can describe the cultural context of 'wanting to have a pony.' – English Student Jun 28 '17 at 21:54
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    "Whiskey! Because you never got a pony" subverts rather than reinforcing gender stereotypes. – Russell Borogove Jun 29 '17 at 15:05
  • They extend past "Wine." "Netflix and chill" is the same tendency to use nouns as action verbs. I talk about this in my answer, way down there somewhere. – fredsbend Jul 1 '17 at 0:17
  • It's true that "Wine! Because XYZ" is also to some extent, a trope in recent English. Mike, "Wine o'Clock!" (or "half past Chardonnay!") is not really the same trope, it's just another one about drinking. Did someone mention drinking? achewood.com/index.php?date=12142006 – Fattie Jul 3 '17 at 1:09
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It's worth mentioning that a pony is a stereotype of something children want (ask for) but cannot have. Children who want a puppy for example might get one eventually, but fewer children are ever able to have a pony: so "a pony" serves as a stereotype for something people want but cannot have.

For example the Urban Dictionary says,

I want a pony

A sarcastic/snarky reply, used mostly when someone says "We want a..." followed by a very hard/impossible request.

The short form of saying "It would probably be neat, but it's just NOT possible."

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

  • "Yes, and I want a pony."

See also http://wiki.c2.com/?IwantaPony

The argument (or joke or meme) quoted in the OP seems to be that, now that you're an adult, although you couldn't have a pony at least you can now have wine.

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    Sort of. I'd say it's more about inventing an excuse to drink wine. – fredsbend Jul 1 '17 at 0:18
  • Maybe it's that everybody wanted a pony (and didn't get one), so, now everybody has an excuse to drink wine (as a consolation). – ChrisW Dec 26 '17 at 22:56
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It is a joke. It is intended as a funny way to say that its time to drink wine.

The reason it is funny is because people who have had serious hardships in life sometimes turn to alcohol to cope with their troubles, but not getting a pony as a child is a silly thing to complain about and is an even sillier reason to drink wine.

"Wine. Because you never got a Lamborghini when you turned 16." This would be the male equivalent to the pony saying.

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    Funnier would be: Beer. Because you never got a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock... – Engineer Jun 29 '17 at 22:10
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It's a common enough structure with two generalized schemes.

  1. [1]Object_As_Compromise due to [2]Unlikely_Or_Comical_Scenario, e.g.,
    • [1]Honey badgers. [2]Because who has time to engineer the perfect killing machine?
    • [1]I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. [2]It's the only way to be sure.
    • [1]Your mom. [2]Just because.

and

  1. [1]Object_of_Desire due to [2]Advertising_Plea, e.g.,
    • [1]L'Oreal. [2]Because you're worth it.
    • [1]CheapRazors.com [2]Because you deserve a fresh razor every day.
    • [1]Join the Army. [2]Be all that you can be.


There's also the pun-factor of swapping whine with wine. Another similar whine/wine-related pun would be, "You want some cheese with that whine?"

  • (Your second two advertising slogans don't exist. Only L'Oreal uses that pattern.) Yes, your first pattern is the rtope at hand "Wine. Because XYZ" – Fattie Jul 3 '17 at 1:15
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A common speech form in today's English is to make action verbs out of nouns.

In your example, wine, the alcoholic grape drink, is being used as an action verb. The phrase is saying "Drink wine when you want to regret your pony free childhood". Alternatively, it could be "Give me wine because I never had a pony". But not having a pony at any age is probably overwhelmingly common. I would go further that the phrase is meant to embody the culture of drinking wine regularly. This is probably understood by the people who have at least a glass every night, despite the quality of their days or their lives. They are saying that you should drink wine for the sake of drinking wine, but if you need an excuse, a pony-free childhood will do just as good as any. In light of the "pony for my childhood" meme, it's almost flippant. Most people don't really want a pony at any age. There's plenty of other phrases that can be found with a Google search of "wine. because", where the word wine is more of a verb than a noun.

An extremely popular example that you may better relate to is Netflix and chill. Netflix is a proper noun, but it's being used as an action verb. The sentence structure is laid out like an action verb. "Netflix" is not something you do. This speech form tendency is meant to capture what it means to watch Netflix, watching being the principle action of what you do with a Netflix account. This includes the on-demand television habit called "binge" watching that most if not all Netflix subscribers are familiar with. If you're still not convinced, consider that "Netflix and chill" is a common response to questions about plans for the evening. Someone asks you "What are you doing tonight?" And you reply "Netflix". Netflix is a proper noun, not a verb. You don't do Netflix. They mean to say "I'm going to just relax on the couch and let some Netflix show autoplay all night."


Consider some of these wine images, capturing the "wine drinking culture" meme:

enter image description here

Presumably, children whine, therefore this parent [drinks] wine. Wine is being used as a verb here.

enter image description here

"Wine" at the end is almost used as verb, saying "drink wine" or "give me wine".

enter image description here

enter image description here

An interesting twist on that old prayer. "I could use divine serenity and courage, but wine helps too."

Consider some of these pony images, accenting the meme "I never got a pony for my birthday":

enter image description here

"Mom and dad, gimme!"

enter image description here

Surely, you'd need a few glasses of wine first.

After seeing this, it should be clear that the saying isn't even about ponies. It's about wine. It's about drinking wine daily as part of your life ritual.

And finally, the less vocal "Drink beer" culture had their own take:

enter image description here

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The wine is to help you deal with the severe childhood emotional trauma of not getting a pony when you really really wanted one.

It's a dig at people with first world problems

  • Hello @Thorne interesting theory. Do you have some support for that? – Bhoomika Arora Jun 30 '17 at 9:32
  • No. A person who likes to drink wine wrote this line, not some SJW with an axe to grind. – fredsbend Jul 1 '17 at 0:20
  • If someone was going to use the pony meme, they'd say a real world issue/decision that they think is foolish, then compound it with "because you never got that pony." Something like "Cancel all welfare and food assistance, because you never got a pony when you were a kid." This would be satire at people who make spiteful decisions because of their perceived past troubles. – fredsbend Jul 1 '17 at 0:23
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I interpret this as more of an "it's never too late to have a happy childhood" statement. It may be too late to have that pony, but it's never too late to have a glass (or bottle, or barrel) of wine. In this interpretation, the word 'wine' is not a verb, it's a noun (person, place, or thing). It's also not a pun, as the noun 'wine' describes something that is supposedly desirable in and of itself, and would therefore be an excellent substitute for that pony you never got. Not being an oenophile, I've no use for the stuff, but many people find it strangely therapeutic. Go figure....

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It is not a misspelling. The phrase indicates that the writer would not be drinking wine if he or she had gotten a pony. It may also imply that drinking wine is an inferior substitute for having a pony.

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    I'm not sure I agree that the first suggestion is accurate. The second, maybe so. As Davo mentioned, they may be upset because they don't have a pony, thus leading them to drink their sorrows away. – Hank Jun 28 '17 at 14:30
  • On the contrary, the phrase indicates that the author will drink wine for any reason. – fredsbend Jul 2 '17 at 1:08
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Excellent, thought-provoking question: since it was a meme on social media it could possibly be somebody's original thought and in any case cannot be given a strict interpretation based on sources.

So here is how I read it:

Whine (wine being a pun or misspelling for whine) -- because you never got a pony.

Implication:[sarcastic] go on an' whine because you never got a pony. As in, did you ever consider, now that you have grown up, that pony was an extravagant wish and not a child's basic need? [Here pony is a metaphor for both privileged childhood and extravagant wish-making.] I hope you sometimes remember to appreciate what you got, however rough/tough your childhood was. Let's be thankful for what our parents managed to provide!

(Not necessarily my personal opinion, but wine sounds suspiciously like whine here and the actual meaning of wine only makes convoluted sense: this meme could be a witty but stern warning to complainers not to use social media to bemoan their 'underprivileged' childhood when 80% of the people in the world have probably managed with less.)

Be careful what you wish for... Pony is especially poignant because of what happened in Gone With The Wind.

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    I think you're underestimating the number of infographics such as these being shared on social media that justify casual alcoholism. I see one about wine very much like this at least once a week. – Darren Ringer Jun 28 '17 at 18:33
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    I think you're overestimating casual drinking being equal to alcoholism. – thumbtackthief Jun 28 '17 at 20:34
  • @Darren Ringer you might very well be right, because my footprint is nonexistent on social media! I WAS simply reading and interpreting the sentence without any more context than provided here provided by OP. – English Student Jun 28 '17 at 21:10
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    It's a common association, married or divorced middle class women and wine. The glass(es) of wine is seen as an almost essential crutch, it helps dissolves stress and tension, it is said to help unwind people. Unlike the French or the Italians, who tend to drink wine with their meals, in the UK (and I think also in the US) wine is seen as a reward, as a means to relax, it can be drunken before dinner, during, and after. It's a cultural thing, if you have not visited the UK nor the US you can't fully comprehend what social drinking is about. – Mari-Lou A Jun 28 '17 at 21:17
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    See Google images for wine memes – Mari-Lou A Jun 28 '17 at 21:18

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