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White elephant sale

Posted by ESC on August 11, 2004

In Reply to: White elephant sale posted by Ward on August 10, 2004

: : : : Interesting report. You can listen online at the NPR site.

: : : : WHITE ELEPHANT -- Researchers in Sri Lanka have spotted a white elephant in the wild, probably the first recorded instance of such an event. NPR's Scott Simon takes a look at the place white elephants hold in humankind's imagination. National Public Radio. Weekend Edition - Saturday, August 7, 2004.

: : : :

: : : Yes, but is this white elephant, just a White Elephant?

: : You have of course triggered the obvious question. What is the origin of the term 'white elephant' as in 'white elephant sale'. My search through the archives produced the following:

: : The quote - White elephant (origin)
: : : "Such creatures were given as gifts by Siamese royalty to subjects with the intention of ruining them."
: : : Should read:
: : : White (albino) elephants were regarded as holy in ancient times in Thailand and other Asian countries. To keep a white elephant was a very expensive task, since you had to provide the elephant with special food, and provide access for people who wanted to come and worship it. If a Thai King became, for some reason, dissatisfied with a sub-king, he would give him a white elephant. The gift would, in most cases, ruin the recipient.

: : OK, that's what I found, but I didn't think it quite implies the same thing, as that which is meant by 'white elephant sale'.

: : Can anyone enlighten me?

: A white elephant sale in the States is normally a sort of odds and ends sale where people bring those objects they have which don't quite fit anymore.......(if they ever did). So you end up with a lot of stuff that is of questionable design appearance and quality.
: There are those who always find that someone elses 'white elephant' is their treasure.

The audio clip discusses the origin of the phrase.