You may have heard of the idiom ‘elephant in the room’, used to describe a controversial situation or problem that everyone knows about but does not want to discuss or acknowledge, for particular reasons. The meaning probably originates from the fact that an elephant in a room would take up so much space that it would be impossible to miss, even under a blanket. Though everyone knows the elephant is there they don’t want to mention it to stay out of an unwanted discussion that could be risky.
One example was tonight: Charles’ alarm went off at two in the morning and it continued constantly for about 20 minutes until Sandy got the nerve to go turn it off. It was an elephant in the room for a while because no one was acknowledging that the alarm was going off, even if they were trying to get some sleep and it was loud as fuck. It became very apparent at 2:10 am when it was still going. I began to think that Charles doesn’t have the sense to turn it off or is too fast asleep to even notice it. I just wanted to go into the room and turn off the damn thing for him.
Beep beep…beep beep…beep beep…the same monotonous tone over and over again, like a heartbeat only louder. It would be a great torture test. Lock a person up in a padded room with the annoying alarm going constantly also along with nonstop Justin Bieber music. It would surely drive them insane.
My next thought was that there was no one in the room but where would Charles go at this time of night? I knew my mom was surely at work so there could only be one person responsible for this ruckus in the wee hours of the day.
How about I just go knock on the door to get his attention? It wouldn’t be rude since everyone else is trying to sleep and it makes sense to take care of the situation.
I guess it would be a great way for someone to sleep; it could put them in a dream state.
Is Charles trying to set the Guinness World Record for longest continued alarm clock beeping?
Finally, Sandy, who was sleeping right within earshot of the noise, finally had enough and went to turn off the alarm. Problem solved. No big deal and it isn’t remembered the next day.
Some better examples of the elephant in the room idiom:
There was some road kill on the side of the highway today as we were driving by. It just lies there and even though it’s apparent to everyone, no one is going to mention it because it’s disgusting and not worth bringing up. There are far more better things to talk about than a dead deer on the shoulder pass.
At the university library one day, someone was printing off about 500 copies of a large picture of Peter Griffin, in between important schoolwork papers and such. Though a lot of students and faculty saw the Family Guy character bright as day as it was shooting out of the printer constantly, it was passed off as such as they searched for their own papers within the mess.
That hideous green shade of wallpaper you just put up in the house? Everyone knows it hideous, you just realized its hideous, but since it was so difficult to put up no one is going to argue or say anything and figures to just let it be.
The fat guy at the China Buffet that takes the saying “All you can eat” literally? He’s been there for hours and the staff knows it, though they aren’t going to be discriminating and rude to the man by asking him to leave. They just wait until closing time when the buffet line is shut down and the man is forced to go home, watching in horror as the man eats everything AND the kitchen sink.
The Elephant in the Room has many cultural references. It is seen in politics, movies, TV shows, music, books, and other forms of media. All hail the elephant.
One example of its use in comedy involves someone who has on some ridiculous, outlandish clothes that are noticeable in a group of people who are all dressing formally. The man walks around the town in these clothes, people look at him and the man acts as if there is nothing unusual about his outfit. He walks into his office job, and everyone sees his outfit, do not ask why he’s wearing such ridiculous clothes, and eventually they just go back to their normal routines. The guy goes to the company meeting and sits down, clearly out of place with the business suits, but everyone acts as if this is a normal thing and greet the man in the same professional manner as anyone else there. Of course the people at home watching the show would be cracking up but the business people keep straight faces and continue on with their work.
The sitcom ‘The Office’ has a great habit of employing the elephant in the room idiom. Such as when, right after Michael Scott (Steve Carell) had left the show, and a replacement was being looked for, everyone is lying or sleeping on their desks or the floor for no known reason. No one walking around asks whats going on and leaves the viewers of the show thinking ‘What the hell?’ And of course Dwight Schrute always has his logical wisdom, of which has turned into a popular meme on the Internet.
Before I do anything I ask myself “Would an idiot do that?” And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing. – Dwight K. Schrute
Debt is often treated as an elephant in the room.
It’s such a sticky situation that bringing it up would cause head aches. No one wants to risk being blamed for or having to take charge of it. If a company is severely in debt and is on the brink of going under most employees are going to keep quiet about the apparent problem, since addressing it usually means that it must be dealt with instead of being “swept under the rug” or left to someone else. In politics, the idiom points to Obama and everyone else in the government not panicking about the national debt problem (in the far trillions), and choose to treat it as a back-burner issue, instead focusing on spending more money on programs that they think will be beneficial to the country, putting us farther in debt. It’s pretty obvious that we can never get out of debt, unless a magical reset button is pressed and everything turns back to zero (someone please come up with this, it’s only logical).
This idiom is a fun one to talk about, as it has many possibilities in the world. In fact, I have an elephant in the room with me right now. It’s the fact that I’m writing this article to inform you of the elephant in the room idiom and provide examples but I’m actually wasting my time and life writing this and you have better things to do, but I don’t really want to confirm that belief. Or have I already?
This video on YouTube offers a great example of the elephant in the room, which actually features an elephant…in the room.