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“They never pay interest and reap whatever rewards their credit card offers, whether it’s miles, cash back, or a free pony.”

In this context, what is the meaning of the expression “a free pony?”

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    Literally a tiny horse that costs nothing. Air miles and cash back are the most common type of credit card rewards, but the author wanted to emphasise that the reward could be anything. – JonLarby May 30 '18 at 9:21
  • I agree with @JonLarby, it's probably a small horse that costs nothing. But I also enjoy the possible cockney rhyming slang (which has more than one meaning). If the rest of the context implies Cockney, it might be this (but it's not likely). – Pam May 30 '18 at 10:09
  • I think a free £25 (the other meaning of a pony in Cockney rhyming slang) is more likely than a free crap! – JonLarby May 30 '18 at 10:20
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    A 'free pony' is a classic comedic finish. It's a poor child's dream of the most extravagant present ever, and it's a funny way of completing a list of things that should be considered wonderful and very hard to attain. The sentence above is trying to do that but with things that entitled rich people already get (because they can always pay off their credit card bills on time). – Mitch May 30 '18 at 11:45
  • @Mitch you should make that an answer. You nailed it. – Stephen R May 30 '18 at 13:13
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Some words mean what they say and others have years of being used as metaphor. Others mean what they say but have cultural relevance, like 'free pony'.

A 'free pony' is a classic comedic finish. It's a poor child's dream of the most extravagant present ever, and it's a funny way of completing a list of things that should be considered wonderful and very hard to attain (or similarly, by other comedic techniques).

For example, suppose a politician promises some great economic benefit like 'jobs for everyone'. A 'they also promise a free pony with that', because frankly it's almost impossible to guarantee a job, you might as well promise something also unattainable like a pony. (Yes, I have drained all humor from this by the explanation).

The given sentence is trying to use the 'pony' pattern but with things that entitled rich people already get (because they can always pay off their credit card bills on time). That is a somewhat convoluted use of the trope and not necessarily the most canonical.

Urban Dictionary gives a similar idea but with the extra qualification that the gift is also a burden to maintain. I don't think that is what it means in general and certainly not what is intended in your example.

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  • @lbf The surprising lack of definitions (which are really just explanations after a long amount of time) are because cultural artifacts, like slang, tend to be fleeting. UD is definitely not an accurate source (people tend to write -anything- there), it is a very good source for existence of things and (questionable) hints about meaning. Also, on a cursory google search, it was the only hit in the first page that didn't just use it as a title, that didn't just assume you knew exactly what was meant by it as a stand alone phrase. – Mitch May 30 '18 at 15:24
  • i would have been hammered! – lbf May 30 '18 at 16:18

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