SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Elephant in the room? Make mine pink — or was that punk?


One might be even more of an elephant in the room by wearing a gorilla suit.

The expression “elephant in the room” (usually “the elephant in the room”) or “the elephant in the living room” is a metaphorical idiom in English for an important or enormous topic, problem, or risk that is obvious or that everyone knows about but no one mentions or wants to discuss because it makes at least some of them uncomfortable or is personally, socially, or politically embarrassing, controversial, inflammatory, or dangerous.

It is based on the idea/thought that something as conspicuous as an elephant can appear to be overlooked in codified social interactions and that the sociology/psychology of repression also operates on the macro scale. Various languages across the world have words that describe similar concepts.

Here’s an excellent compendium about other ways we use the word “elephant.”

The elephant in the language, by Grant Barrett

Today I want to talk about elephants.

One of the joys of my work as a dictionary editor is finding arbitrary but interesting connections among words, such as those colloquial expressions in English that have to do with elephants.