Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One Man's White Elephant, Another Man's Golden Goose

It's that time of year again. The annual theatre get together and white elephant exchange. So I am digging deep to find an appropriate gift. The white elephants have been losing their luster lately so I want to be up to the challenge. In the last 30 years we have had some GREAT white elephants. Elvis busts embellished as they are passed on year to year, local artistic talent, a statue of George Bernard Shaw, an elephant, African carvings to name a few. Even the singing Billy the Bass was a hit the first year it was around.

When the kids were little I would buy them their "white elephants" and sneak them into the mix and amazingly they got some really good stuff. Of course they probably don't have a clue as what a real white elephant is, metaphorically speaking. (See description below)

In years past I was a little racy with my choices until one ended up in the hands of a 14 year old boy who is now well into his thirties/forties? and a dear colleague of mine. Somewhere in my house there has to be at least 2 (Larry and I) really good choices if only I can find them. Any ideas?

A white elephant


A burdensome possession; creating more trouble than it is worth.


white elephantWhite (albino) elephants were regarded as holy in ancient times in Thailand and other Asian countries. Keeping a white elephant was a very expensive undertaking, since the owner had to provide the elephant with special food and provide access for people who wanted to worship it. If a Thai King became dissatisfied with a subordinate, he would give him a white elephant. The gift would, in most cases, ruin the recipient.

References to Indian and Thai veneration of white elephants dates back to at least the early 17th century. The first reference in English to the idiomatic meaning of the term 'white elephant' comes in 1851 G. E. Jewbury's Letters, 1892:

"His services are like so many white elephants, of which nobody can make use, and yet that drain one's gratitude, if indeed one does not feel bankrupt."

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

Richie Helder? Oh, that's funny! I remember Jack just being so excited about the White Elephants! We'd do that at work and he was always fabulous! Loved this post!