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Elephant in the room

The elephant in the room is a large, obvious, and important thing that no one wants to address because the problem is uncomfortable. The elephant in the room is an American phrase with murky origins, the first reference being in 1935 to mean something obvious and incongruous. In the 1950s, the elephant in the room came to mean what it means today, something enormous that people choose to ignore because it is uncomfortable to deal with. An interesting example of ignoring the elephant in the room occurred in the 1935 Broadway musical, Jumbo, in which Jimmy Durante is stopped by a cop while leading a live elephant across the stage. “What are you doing with that elephant?” the policeman asks. “What elephant?” answers Jimmy Durante. Perhaps this scene helped to create the idea of ignoring the elephant in the room.


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Examples

Heavier trucks are the real elephant in the room (The Washington Post)

When decisions were made about how the region would grow — what kinds of laws would be passed, how public money would be spent, what would be built and where and with what kind of public subsidies — the question of race was a giant elephant in the room. (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

I had 1,700 volunteers help me on Courageous, which is awesome, except it means that they’re not helping in other areas, so we were the elephant in the room. (The Hollywood Reporter)

“It was the elephant in the room nobody wanted to talk about,” said longtime coach Geno DeMarco. (The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

One might describe the situation as endemic across the UK and the elephant in the room that people at the top of companies never seem to fully listen to. (Forbes)

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