white elephant


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white elephant

something that is large and unwieldy and is either a nuisance or expensive to keep up. Bob's father-in-law has given him an old Rolls Royce, but it's a real white elephant. He has no place to park it and can't afford the gas for it. Those antique vases Aunt Mary gave me are white elephants. They're ugly and I have no place to put them.
See also: elephant, white

white elephant

An unwanted or useless item, as in The cottage at the lake had become a real white elephant-too run down to sell, yet costly to keep up , or Grandma's ornate silver is a white elephant; no one wants it but it's too valuable to discard . This expression comes from a legendary former Siamese custom whereby an albino elephant, considered sacred, could only be owned by the king. The king would bestow such an animal on a subject with whom he was displeased and wait until the high cost of feeding the animal, which could not be slaughtered, ruined the owner. The story was told in England in the 1600s, and in the 1800s the term began to be used figuratively.
See also: elephant, white

white elephant

n. a useless or unwanted object. (From the notion that an extremely valuable gift that requires great expense for its care and protection is an unwanted gift.) Take all those white elephants to the flea market.
See also: elephant, white

white elephant

An expensive but useless possession. Albino elephants are extremely rare, and any born in Siam became the property of the king. These favored specimens were not allowed to be worked or to be killed without the royal permission. As the story goes, the king often perversely gave a white elephant to a courtier who had fallen out of favor, just so the nobleman would spend a small fortune maintaining the useless gift for the rest of its life. Rummage sales in which people donate items for which they (and possibly no one else) have no use are often called “white elephant sales.”
See also: elephant, white
References in periodicals archive ?
6) During the sojourn of the white elephant in London, these messages were contested and negotiated as people sought entertainment, perused pages of advertisements and purchased seemingly innocuous bars of soap.
Discovery of a white elephant is traditionally regarded as a good omen in the predominantly Buddhist country, so much so that kings in ancient times even waged wars to acquire one.
Before you know it, you'll have a white elephant on your hands.
We have white elephant sales, for example, of surplus or unwanted items.
Finally, the experiment would have to be carried out on lots of elephant moms, so that one might bear a prized transgenic (carrying altered genes) white elephant.
But these claims completely ignore how advances in communications technology will render the project Britain's biggest white elephant.
9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Throughout the month of December, Houlihan's Restaurants, a modern Americanrestaurant and bar, will spread holiday cheer and laughter throughout the country during its Third Annual World's Largest White Elephant Gift Exchange.
SIR - On balance, I am inclined to agree with the comments on BBC Wales Today, that the proposed Circuit for Wales motor track will be a white elephant.
Mr Mallon, admit it, the place is a big white elephant.
BET DAVIES (Viewpoints, November 6) berated JC Bird for calling the Millennium Centre a white elephant and suggesting the Assembly is the same.
The Government agreed to the establishment of a town council in Stanley, County Durham, after receiving a petition with 2,500 signatures, despite opponents branding it a white elephant.
I am referring to the overwhelming support for that white elephant, the London Olympics.
In fact now The Dome, owned by Anschutz and apparently Prescott's pet project (a white elephant for a white elephant), is 6-4 joint-jolly with Blackpool to stage the new Super- Casino.
Meanwhile, opponents of an assembly were planning to unveil a giant inflatable white elephant in Middlesbrough this afternoon.