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.

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