Sort of blend: "the 900 pound elephant in the room"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jan 24 16:17:44 UTC 2007

While discussing possible Democratic Party presidential candidates, a pundit described Hillary Clinton last week as "the hundred-pound gorilla in the room."

  I mean "Democrat Party." It was Fox News.

  He seems not to know much about the weight of either gorillas or Hillary Clinton.


Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU> wrote:
  ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Charles Doyle
Subject: Re: Sort of blend: "the 900 pound elephant in the room"

My 2003 paper to which Gerald refers, a sequel to a more extensive study of the proverbial phrase "see the elephant," briefly discusses the sayings "see the elephant whole"; "You can't swallow an elephant whole" (or "How do you eat an elephant?"/"One bite at a time"); "Don't think about an elephant"; and "the elephant in the room." (I don’t know why I got interested in "elephant" sayings; I’ve never in my life voted Republican!).

Here are the two paragraphs (from the last section) relevant to Gerald's recent posting:

<< A use of the expression "elephant in the house" from 1980, rather than instancing our proverb, actually alludes, instead, to a separate joke, which itself has yielded a different modern proverb: A sportswriter for the _New York Times_ theorized, "If Notre Dame beats Alabama, the Irish can, like the elephant in the house, go wherever they please" to a January bowl game. The more usual version of the joke asks where a 500-pound gorilla sits in the movie theater ("wherever he wants to").

Conversely, that gorilla joke seems to have intruded into the elephant proverb: In 2002 an article in the _Salt Lake City Tribune_ remarked, "There’s a saying that there is a gorilla in the room and nobody wants to talk about it." Back in 1998 an article appeared in the on-line _Gold Digest_ with the title "The 800-Pound Gorilla"; it opined, "The real manipulation has been the fifteen year downward rigging of silver prices through the leasing scam and the 800 pound gorilla in the room that everybody is doing their best to ignore and speak around. But the gorilla is getting tired of sitting still . . . ." Since then, the proverbial elephant has been occasionally replaced by a gorilla weighing variously 400, 600, or 900 pounds, as well as by a pink gorilla, a monkey, a hippopotamus, a boulder, and "the dead moose, as they say in recovery circles, stinking in our midst" (_New York Times Book Review_, 7 May 1995). >>


---- Original message ----
>Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2007 10:20:42 -0600
>From: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard"
>Subject: FW: Sort of blend: "the 900 pound elephant in the room"

> Charlie Doyle has sent me a message about his work on the elephant in the room/living room/elevator and related expressions. I had no trouble opening his attachment, but when I tried to forward his message to ads-l (with his permission), the ads-l server refused to accept the attachment.
> But at least I can mention Charlie's work on the subject to ads-l. Perhaps he can excerpt some portions of his unpublished item for presentation here within the text of an e-mail message. In any case, I look forward to his eventually updating his treatment a bit and publishing it formally.
>Gerald Cohen
>From: Charles Doyle [mailto:cdoyle at]
>Sent: Mon 1/22/2007 12:15 PM
>To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
>Subject: Re: Sort of blend: "the 900 pound elephant in the room"
>Dear Gerald (I'm "off list" here),
>I have attached the text of a talk I gave at a meeting of the California Folklore Society (since renamed the Western States Folklore Society) in April 2003. Don't read the whole thing! But on pages 10-11 appear some comments on the blending of the the elephant saying with the gorilla saying.
>(I would no doubt find more instances if I were researching the subject NOW.)
>Best wishes.

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