What does 'the (or 'an' maybe...?) elephant in the room' mean?
I think this is something idiomatic or metaphoric, but I have no idea.
Any relations to the phrases such as 'white elephant' or 'pink elephant'?[<:o)]
Many thanks for your help in advance.

- Ah...BTW, if there were an elephant in my room.... what would I do.....!?
The most important thing I'd like to ask him/her would be.... "Please don't sleep on my bed!!"

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One possibility (from a crisis intervention resource manual:

The Elephant in the Room
by Terry Kettering

(missing image)

There's an elephant in the room.

It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.

Yet we squeeze by with, "How are you?" and "I'm fine," and a thousand other

forms of trivial chatter. We talk about the weather. We talk about work.

We talk about everything else, except the elephant in the room.

= A commanding presence which is either ignored or unnoticed.

And here is Wikipedia's explanation:

The elephant in the room (also elephant in the living room, elephant in the corner, 'elephant on the dinner table' etc) is an English idiom for a question that very obviously stands, but for the convenience of one or other party is ignored. It derives its symbolic meaning from the fact that an elephant would indeed be conspicuous and remarkable in a small room; thus the idiom also implies a value judgment that the issue should be discussed openly. The idiom is commonly used in addiction recovery terminology to describe the reluctance of friends and family of an addicted person to discuss the person's problem, thus aiding the person in their denial .

The idiom is also occasionally invoked as "pink elephant in the corner," possibly in reference to alcohol abuse , or for no other reason than a pink elephant is more visible than a normal elephant.

Alan Clarke 's 1989 short television film 'Elephant' was a reference to this phrase; the elephant in this case was the troubles in Northern Ireland . In an attempt to illustrate the core of the problem, Clarke's film stripped away all dialogue and plot, and was essentially a series of unrelated, motiveless shootings.[1]

Gus Van Sant 's 2003 film Elephant , which is named after the Clarke film, places the idiom in the context of a Columbine -style high school shooting - although this was apparently inadvertent, as Van Sant apparently believed Clarke was referring to the story of three blind men investigating an elephant, each perceiving a different object. [2]


Mr M's reply is superb. I have sought the origin of the idiom, but the effort ended in vain. What I found is only a trivial article that says:

Elephant in the room
The elephant in the room (also elephant in the living room, elephant in the corner) is an English idiom to mean such a problem that everyone knows it very well but at the same time they feel talking about it is a kind of taboo (because they know the problem is tough to solve)

"American culture, the elephant in the bed, can be transformed into a bridegroom or a bride, living in some sort of mutually beneficial relation."

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I had never heard this idiom before today.
I wonder how well known or often used it is.
I like it though! (I had never seen/heard it either)
Hello Mike

I don't know how often it is used. But even only "elephant in America's living room" hits 40,000 sites on Google. I guess it may be an idiom loved by Americans.

"Racial differences are the elephant in America's living room. As hard as people try, it's impossible to ignore them. They cannot be ignored anymore than the fact that the Earth is not flat. Racial differences are part of reality."

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Hi Paco and Pieanne,

40,000 is a lot of hits! As you say, Paco, it may be popular in America.
Interesting quote too, though I feel it may be applied to the whole world, not just to America these days.

I know it's a bit off the topic, but I'm reminded of one of my favourite songs when I was a kid, Melting Pot by Blue Mink;

Take a pinch of white man
Wrap him up in black skin
Add a touch of blue blood
And a little bitty bit of red indian boy
Oh like a curly latin kids
Oh lordy, lordy, mixed with yellow ching kids, yeah
You know you lump it all together
And you got a recipe for a get along scene
Oh what a beautiful dream
If it could only come true, you know, you know

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough enough enough to take
The world and all it’s got
And keep it stirring for
A hundred years or more
And turn out coffee coloured people by the score

Rabbis and the friars
Vishnus and the gurus
We got the beatles or the sun god
Well it really doesn’t matter
What religion you choose
And be thankful little mrs. graceful
You know that livin’ could be tasteful
We should all get together in a lovin machine
I think I’ll call up the queen
It’ s only fair that she knows, you know, you know

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough enough enough to take
The world and all it’s got
And keep it stirring for
A hundred years or more
And turn out coffee coloured people by the score

Coffee coloured people
Coffee coloured people
Coffee coloured people by the score
Donovan could have sung it!
Many thanks for all the help. Emotion: smile

While I was watching a drama the other day, I came across 'elephant in the room.'

I thought it was a very unique and funny expression, though I didn't understand the meaning at all.

"elephant on the dinner table"

....lol, again, this is funny. How can we ignore its' presence?

Mr. M and Paco,

Thanks again for taking your time to answer my question. Emotion: smile


Thanks for sharing, I like the song very much!Emotion: wink
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