In this episode I explain the expression “an elephant in the room” as well as give you some examples of how and when it’s used.
Download the full PDF transcript here.
Ep052: Expression – An Elephant In The Room
G’day guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.
Today is another animal idiom, another animal expression, and the expression for today is, “An elephant in the room”, “An elephant in the room.”
What does the expression “An elephant in the room” mean? It’s used for anything obvious, that’s an obvious truth, that is being unaddressed. So it’s going unaddressed. What does unaddressed mean? If you address something it means that you deal with it, you talk about it, you face it. If it’s unaddressed it means that you’re ignoring it, you’re not facing it, you’re not talking about it, you’re not dealing with it.
So, it’s an obvious problem, an obvious risk, an obvious issue you could have with someone that you should be talking about, that is important, but you’re not talking about it. And the sense or the idea of it being an elephant in the room comes from the idea that say, you know, you and your family were in a room having dinner, if there was an elephant in the room you would notice it. And so, it’s to sort of draw a parallel between the issue you’re not talking about and suggesting that it is an elephant in the room. So, we can all see it, it’s all incredibly obvious, it’s huge, it’s making noise, but we’re ignoring it and we’re not talking about it. So, it’s an elephant in the room.
So, let’s talk about the different words in this phrase that you guys might not know yet.
“An elephant”, if you don’t know what it is it’s a massive, massive land mammal. It’s one of the, if not the largest living land animal today. Ah… they’re found in Africa and South East Asia. They eat plants. Ah… they have a prehensile trunk, and the trunk is the thing that comes off its nose. The long sort of um… ah… how would you explain it? It’s a long thin part of the animal that comes off the front of it. So instead of having a noise it has a trunk with two nostrils at the end of the trunk, and it can use this trunk, it’s prehensile, which means it can move it from side to side, it can wrap it around things, so it can pick up trees, it can pick up grass, it can… you know, grab onto a person with it if it wanted. That’s a prehensile trunk. It also has long curved ivory tusks, and a tusk is a tooth that kind of grows outwards from an animal face, from its mouth. So, boars or pigs can have tusks, wild pigs. Um… there are even some deer with tusks. Um… and yeah, elephants are probably the best example of a land animal, of a land mammal, that has a tusk or has two tusks growing out of its face, growing out of its mouth. And they’re teeth, what were teeth growing out.
“A room” I’m sure you all know. It’s a space, it’s like a chamber, it’s part of the house that can be occupied where something is done, you know, like a bedroom, a living room, a lounge room. It’s a part of the building that’s enclosed by four walls, most often, and a floor and a ceiling. So that’s a room.
So, when would you use the phrase “an elephant in the room?” Um… you could use it say, if a politician is really wanting to avoid a specific topic. So, say, there’s increasing poverty in the world and it’s being ignored by all politicians, you could say that the increased poverty in the world is an elephant in the room. Although it’s incredibly, incredibly obvious the politicians are ignoring it, they’re avoiding the topic, they’re not addressing the topic, and thus it’s an elephant in the room.
Another example could be the fact that someone has a really old brother, say, their brother is thirty five years old and the brother is still living at home with his parents, you know, which is a bit of a strange thing in our society. Most people move out of home in their twenties. And, so, say, that at all family gatherings the fact that this person’s thirty five year old brother lives with his parents still is an elephant in the room. So, it’s an issue that always goes unaddressed. People are ignoring the fact that he still lives with his parents. So, that fact is the elephant in the room.
So, let’s do some exercises, guys, and today we’ll go through again conjugating this sentence, and it’s a bit of a long one so I’ll try to say it a little more slowly, “my drug addiction was an elephant in the room.”
My drug addiction was an elephant in the room.
Your drug addiction was an elephant in the room.
His drug addiction was an elephant in the room.
Her drug addiction was an elephant in the room.
Our drug addiction was an elephant in the room.
Their drug addiction was an elephant in the room.
And so, in this case guys, a drug addiction is when you are addicted to a specific drug. It could be heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines. It could be alcohol, cigarettes. It could be prescription drugs like painkillers. If you’re addicted to that drug then you have a drug addiction. And so, in this sense it’s kind of like you’ve got a problem, you’ve got this drug addiction, and it’s an issue but any time you’re around other people they don’t want to address this problem. It’s obvious, it’s a risk, it’s a problem but they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want to discuss it, and so that problem, the drug addiction, is an elephant in the room. An elephant in the room.
So that’s that expression guys, an elephant in the room. I hope you’re enjoying the episodes. Come visit me at Facebook if you haven’t already and let me know what you think. ‘Til next time guys have a great night!