Elephants in rooms

pic: zfone.com

I like this expression, at first it seems to make no sense but once you get to understand it it is actually quite clever: “the white elephant in the room.”

White elephants are pretty rare to begin with and if you encounter one you wouldn’t expect to do so in a room, especially a conference room on the 12th floor.  So if there was a white elephant in the room everybody would stare at it and talk about it.

Now if everybody sits in that room and talk about the weather or baseball than you would have a “white elephant in the room” problem, namely a obvious issue or problem that is being ignored, goes unaddressed and no one wants to discuss.

Since it is pretty hard to overlook an elephant the expression implies that people pretend the elephant is not there that they are choosing to concern themselves with small and irrelevant issues rather than deal with the big scary one.  Often the reason for this behavior is that the problem causes embarrassment or involves a social taboo.

Project leader: “Let’s discuss the implementation of this project once we a re done with planning next week.”

Manager: “I suggest we address the white elephant in the room first, planning is delayed and wont be finalized until March.”

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