Q: Why is someone who owes money told to “pony up”?
A: While searching for this answer, I was interested to learn “pony” is slang for several meanings.
The Phrase Finder (phrases.org/uk) states pony can mean a small measure of alcohol. It also refers to a “crib sheet” or study aid, as well as 25 pounds or an abridged news report.
Wow, that’s a lot of work for a tiny little horse.
The site states the origin of the phrase is American. The phrase is more often used as “stump up” in Britain and “front up” in Australia and New Zealand.
So how did it get connected to paying up? The QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins theorizes the origin could be related to the fact that a pony is a small horse (no more than 14 hands tall, it states), and ponying up often referred to a little amount of money, such as a small gambling wager.
That also could explain the notion of “pony” referring to the other items The Phrase Finder mentions.
Q: What is the origin of the word “obscene”?
A: The QPB Encyclopedia has this one, as well. At least, it has a couple of theories, but says no certain reason in known.
It states there is a theory that the word meant “off the stage” in ancient Greek drama. That derived from the Latin “ob,” which meant against, and “scaena,” which meant stage.
Often in those dramas, a messenger would report when a violent act occurred. So, the notion is that the violent act occurred off stage.
At the time, the idea of something being obscene referred more to violence than sex. The word became associated with sex in England in the late 1600s.
The books states another theory has the word deriving from the Latin “caenum,” which meant mud.
It also credits William Shakespeare as the first to use the word to identify something that offends the senses in “Richard II.”
The passage there is, “... so heinous, black obscene a deed.”
Shakespeare had quite an impact on language. The book states “obscene” was being used to mean “indecent and lewd” within a few years after the play.
If you’ve got a question, email it to bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com or call him at 256-740-5739.