Archive for November 24th, 2010

November 24, 2010

Another white elephant

It appears that white elephants are very popular in the US.  So here is another expression featuring one: “white elephant gift.” This one needs a bit more explanation and a bit of history.

Famous white elephant: the Concorde, pic: http://www.aeroflight.co.uk

Allegedly, the kings of Siam used to give a white elephant as a gift to people who had fallen out of favor.  A white elephant was considered sacred and therefore could not be put to work, but it required a lot of money for upkeep and could ruin the owner.   So these days a “white elephant” is an expensive, rare possession that costs a lot to maintain and generally is no longer wanted by its owner.  However, the owner can’t get rid of it easily.

Not only possessions but also projects can become “white elephants” if they cost more than they are worth.  A well-known example is Concorde, the high-speed intercontinental passenger planes that were jointly built by the Brits and the French.  Only fourteen production aircraft were ever built, though it was planned that development costs were to be amortized over hundreds of units.  Staggering losses were incurred.

November 24, 2010

Raining and pouring

When it rains it pours! pic: http://www.soundcloud.com

When it rains it pours is a proverb that is used to express that something that didn’t happen for a long time all of a sudden happens in excess.  Generally the “thing” is something negative, undesirable, or annoying which one felt happy to have escaped for a long time and then – all of a sudden – a whole lot of negative things happen all at the same time.

This idiom can be used in personal and business conversation.  It is without negative or questionable connotation.  Here are some usage examples:

“We got all the way through December without the flu but now all the kids have gotten it at once.  When it rains it pours.”

Sales person: “The store was super-quite for two hours, only two customers in total and now then ten came at once.  When it rains it pours.”