Have you ever heard of the expression ‘the elephant in the room?’ Why is it elephant and why not other animals?
‘The elephant in the room’ is a metaphorical idiom that means an obvious or major problem that nobody mentions and seems to care about. Another version of this idiom is ‘the elephant in the living room.’
If we suddenly find an elephant in our room, we will have a lot of questions. But we will also do so if we find basically any animals that are supposed to spend their time outdoor. So why don’t we have ‘the tiger in the room’ or ‘the giraffe in the room?’
It’s because of the origin of the idiom itself. In 1814, a Russian fabulist and poet named Ivan Krylov wrote a fable titled ‘The Inquisitive Man.’ The story tells about a man who goes to a museum and notices everything except for an elephant. Since then, the phrase ‘the elephant in the museum’ became proverbial.
In the 20th century, the idiom has had many variations such as ‘the elephant in the living room,’ ‘the elephant in the classroom,’ and the more general ‘the elephant in the room.’
‘The elephant in the room’ doesn’t only mean a major problem that is ignored. It also refers to a situation where talking about that particular problem will cause embarrassment, controversies, or arguments, so everyone deliberately avoids discussing it.
“Her issues are caused by her unhealthy habits, but no one wants to tell her the elephant in the room as not to upset her.”
“If we are to slow down the virus mutation, we have to address the elephant in the room, that is vaccine equity.”
This is a handy chart of why there is an elephant in the room.
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