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Common Phrase Origins and Meanings  |  E-Letter Idioms
Origins for the idiom Elephant in the Room.
Ignoring an obvious problem; Failing to address an issue that stands out in a major way.
* Darill's coworkers knew that he was responsbile for clogging the toilet, so Darill decided to speak up and address the elephant in the room, and then promptly went to unclog the toilet.

* There was an elephant in the dining room this evening when my friend sat down at the table with a black eye, but did not say anything about what had happened to him.
The meaning of the phrase Elephant in the Room.
Elephants are the largest land animals on earth. They can grow up to 14 feet (4 m) tall 
and weigh up to 15,000 lb (7,000 kg). A large elephant in a room is not something that's 
easily ignored; it sticks out like a sore thumb. This is comparable to how if there is a big 
issue that people are aware of but none of them are unwilling to acknowledge it for whatever reason, then it is like there's a big elephant in the room that everyone is intentionally ignoring.

The exact origin of this phrase is unclear, however, the phrase looks to be a relatively recent one, only being found in print as early as the mid 20th century, though it's always possible that the idiom is older. According to Wikipedia, the Oxford English Dictionary credits the New York Times newspaper from June 20th, 1959, as the first recorded use of this phrase as a simile. While I am unable to find the newspaper myself to verify, there is supposedly a line from it that reads:

    "Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. 
     It's so big you just can't ignore it."
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