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The Canine in Conversation
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oddball illustration of three amimals dressed as humans and walking on their hind legs. A frog leads holding an oversized spoon, followed by a dog in a top hat and a horse  in a skirt
figure 1  

 

dog and pony show. An elaborate if substanceless presentation whose primary purpose is to impress or sell.

It lacks the implied fraud of a phrase like “smoke and mirrors;” at the same time, it suggests an emphasis on the quality of the presentation, rather than on the content or the subject. In the online version of Fast Company, Paul Cabana of the so-called Corporate Debunking Unit, says that to refer to a presentation in this way is “the worst kind of put down.”reference 1 He also suggests that the term comes from a traditional form of entertainment and has even dug up someone who takes his dogs and horses to birthday parties of small children. However, Evan Morris says this term has been derogatory from the start. He traces its origin to the turn of the last century and says it refers to traveling circuses that were too small or poor to have elephants and lions, and had, well, dogs and ponies, instead.reference 2 That would suggest small-time or penny-ante, to me.

 

 

1. Cabana, Paul. 2001. The Dog and Pony Show Must Go On! Fast Company, (43): 62. Accessed Sep 7 2001 from: http:// www.fastcompany.com/ online/43/cdu.html

2. Morris, Evan. 2000. Click on the Dog and the Pony Falls Over. Cool, Huh? The Word Detective. Accessed Sept 5 2001 from
http:// www. word-detective.com/ 051600.html# dogandpony.
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About the illustration: This old woodcut shows a parade with a frog, a dog, and a pony. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.
see also: jump through hoops Last updated: June 21, 2008
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