Elephant in the room (1992, 1993); Appetizer (1821)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Tue Nov 4 09:07:50 UTC 2003


   Andrew Sullivan's blog today mentions "the elephant in the room."  There
are over 9,000 Google hits for this, which probably should be included in the
   "The elephant in the room" has received additional wordplay with the
recent acclaimed Gus Van Sant movie ELEPHANT.
   Ann Landers published the Terry Kettering poem by this title in 1993 and
again in 1996, but Google Groups shows a 1992 "elephant in the room" hit.

Dear Ann Landers: Not long ago, you printed a letter from Rose Sahli in
Carmel, Calif. Rose spoke of how her son had died and she wished family members and
friends would talk about him more often. That letter made us think of a poem,
"The Elephant in the Room." It appeared in your column a few years ago.
We have been members of The Compassionate Friends, an organization for
grieving parents, since our son was killed in a freak auto accident eight years ago.
Matt was 17. This poem makes it clear that not only is it OK to talk about
our dead child but that the references are appreciated because a day never goes
by that our child is not in our thoughts. We give this poem to family, friends
and co-workers to let them know how we feel. I hope you will find it worth
sharing again. -- SOUTH WINDSOR, CONN.
Dear Conn.: Thank you for suggesting I use that wonderful poem in my column.
I published it in 1993 and received several letters of appreciation.
Incidentally, I was among those who had the mistaken notion that it was painful for
family members to hear references to a loved one who had died. Many readers
called me on it, and I know better now. Here is the poem: The Elephant in the Room
by Terry Kettering There's an elephant in the room. It is large and squatting,
so it is hard to get around it. Yet we squeeze by with "How are you?" and
"I'm fine" ... And a thousand other forms of trivial chatter. We talk about the
weather. We talk about work. We talk about everything else -- except the
elephant in the room. There's an elephant in the room. We all know it is there. We
are thinking about the elephant as we talk together. It is constantly on our
minds. For, you see, it is a very big elephant. It has hurt us all. But we do
not talk about the elephant in the room. Oh, please, say her name. Oh, please,
say "Barbara" again. Oh, please, let's talk about the elephant in the room. For
if we talk about her death, Perhaps we can talk about her life. Can I say
"Barbara" to you and not have you look away? For if I cannot, then you are
leaving me Alone ... In a room ... With an elephant. Reprinted with permission of
Bereavement Publishing Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo.


   Literature Online didn't help with "appetizer."  This 1821 hit is from
   Don't have too many appetizers--you'll look like the elephant in the room.

   1 September 1821, TIMES (London), pg. 2, col. 1:
   In Turkey nothing is more common than for Mussulmans to take several
glasses of strong spirits by way of appetizer.  Lord Byron says he has seen them
take even as many as six of raki before dinner, and swear that they dined the
better for it: he tried the experiment, but says, that he was like the
Scotchman, who, having heard that the birds called killiewinks were admirable whets,
ate six of them, and complained "_that he was no hungrier than when he began_."

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