Ever been in a meeting where there’s a subject that everyone is thinking about and no-one wants to mention?

For example – imagine you’re in a meeting with people from several different departments, regarding a possible new project. No-one wants to mention the ‘B’ word; budget.


Budget is the “Elephant in the room”, it’s obvious that it needs to be discussed but no-one wants to, just in case they end up paying

It seems to be a relatively recent term, OED cites its first use as 1959, but no-one seems to know where it came from.  A live version of the saying was created by Banksy in 2006, as a comment on our reluctance to discuss issues of great importance such as poverty.

I like the slightly surreal mental picture the phrase creates, and the situation doesn’t arise often enough in my world for this to really feel like a cliche. Maybe because Dutch business culture favours directness, my colleagues tend to just ask the question.

Image Elephant via Pixabay

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