Have we highlighted in our discussions that there may be “an elephant in the room?”
How would we begin to establish how to bring up the topic of that “elephant in the room,”
(a subject that may already in and of itself be a difficult subject, far too complex, with potentially a risk [ of something, but what?] simply by bringing up the topic)
so that we can actually address the problem?
When does the problem become so big that it must be addressed?
If the problem continues to be avoided, not addressed and no solution nor any remedy is found or can be found, is the thought process behind this inaction that it ( the problem, the issue) will “simply just go away?”
Elephant in the room
“Elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.
It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives the first recorded use of the phrase, as a simile, as The New York Times on June 20, 1959: “Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you just can’t ignore it.”Origins
- This idiomatic expression may have been in general use much earlier than 1959. For example, the phrase appears 44 years earlier in the pages of a British journal in 1915.
- The sentence was presented as a trivial illustration of a question British schoolboys would be able to answer, e.g., “Is there an elephant in the class-room?”
The first widely disseminated conceptual reference was a story written by Mark Twain in 1882, “The Stolen White Elephant”, which slyly dissects the inept, far-ranging activities of detectives trying to find an elephant that was right on the spot after all.
This may have been the reference in the legal opinion of United States v. Leviton (193 F. 2d 848 – Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit, 1951) makes reference in its opinion, “As I have elsewhere observed, it is like the Mark Twain story of the little boy who was told to stand in a corner and not to think of a white elephant.”
The term refers to a question, problem, solution, or controversial issue that is obvious, but which is ignored by a group of people, generally because it causes embarrassment or is taboo.
The idiom can imply a value judgment that the issue ought to be discussed openly, or it can simply be an acknowledgment that the issue is there and not going to go away by itself.
The term is often used to describe an issue that involves a social taboo, such as race, religion, or even suicide.
This idiomatic phrase is applicable when a subject is emotionally charged; and the people who might have spoken up decide that it is probably best avoided.
The phrase “800 lb gorilla (in the room)” is a similar idiomatic expression; however, it refers to a large, unstoppable individual or organization that can exert its will as it desires, even if people do their best to ignore it (e.g. “Characterized by the leading fly-fishing trade journal as an ’800-pound gorilla’ in the fly-fishing industry, Orvis is recognized for its ‘unparalleled influence on the sport’.”)
This expression stems from a riddle, “Where does an 800-pound gorilla sleep? Anywhere it wants to.”
Another popular variation is the phrase “elephant in the corner” which is widely used to the same effect.
- ^ Cambridge University Press. (2009). Cambridge academic content dictionary, p. 298.
- ^ “OED, Draft Additions June 2006: elephant, n.”. OUP. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
- ^ __________. (1915). Journal of education, Vol. 37, p. 288.
- ^ On the nature and elements of the external world: or Universal immaterialism fully explained and newly demonstrated by Thomas Collyns Simon, 1862, p.18
- ^ Palta, Namrata. (2007). Spoken English: a Detailed and Simplified Course for Learning Spoken English, p. 95.
- ^ Mauk, Kristen L. (2006). Gerontological Nursing: Competencies for Care, p. 808. atGoogle Books; “The Elephant in the Room,” CHUMS Magazine, p. 23. May 2003.
- ^ Daniel, Joseph E. “Orvis: An American Fly Fishing Institution.” Fly Fishing Trade, August 2006, 40-47.
- ^ “‘Elephant in the corner of the room’: Discrimination common, associated with depression among minority children,” AAPNews (American Academy of Pediatrics). May 8, 2010; O’Connor, P. (2008) “The Elephant in the Corner: Gender and Policies Related to Higher Education,” Administration [Institute of Public Administration of Ireland] 56(1), pp. 85-110.
- Cambridge University Press. (2009). Cambridge academic content dictionary (Paul Heacock, editor). New York: Cambridge University Press. 13-ISBN 978-0-521-87143-3/10-ISBN 0-521-87143-3;13-ISBN 978-0-521-69196-3/10-ISBN 0-521-69196-6; OCLC 183392531
- __________. (1915). Journal of education, Vol. 37. Oxford: Oxford University Press. OCLC 1713625
- Palta, Namrata. (2007). Spoken English: a Detailed and Simplified Course for Learning Spoken English. New Delhi: Lotus Press. 10-ISBN 8-183-82052-2/13-ISBN 978-8-183-82052-3;OCLC 297508439