Posted by Sauerkraut on December 15, 2000
In Reply to: Dog and Pony show posted by Larry Hershfield on December 07, 2000
: I am curious about the origin of this term - what were dog and pony shows actually, and why did this of all shows or acts come to mean what it does? Thanking you in advance
The reference archived thread does touch one the meaning - the phrase is definitely derogatory, and does come from the circus world. Many "mom and pop and kids" circuses that toured small towns could not afford the expense of maintaining large animals such as camels and elephants, or dangerous and also expensive ones such as lions and tigers. Often, their only menagerie was a few dogs and a pony. The majority of their entertainment consisted of clowning, acrobatics and juggling, with a few acts that involved the dogs and pony. The larger, more sophisticated and better equipped circuses came to refer to these little guys as "dog and pony shows."
Thus the current usage to refer to a presentation without much substance - often given to satisfy the perception that some sort of presentation was needed.