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white elephant
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white elephant
as in:  white elephant gift exchange


And if Will Benteen can’t make a go of the cotton, I’m willing to chip in and help out on that white elephant in Clayton County that you love so much.
Margaret Mitchell  --  Gone with the Wind
  an idiom describing a possession whose upkeep exceeds its value
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white elephant white elephants
Notes:
The term derives from the sacred white elephants kept by Southeast Asian monarchs in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. ...  Because the animals were considered sacred and laws protected them from labor, receiving a gift of a white elephant from a monarch was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because the animal was sacred and a sign of the monarch’s favour, and a curse because the animal had to be kept and could not be put to practical use to offset the cost of maintaining it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_elephant  (retrieved 9/26/08)
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Samples:
  • And if Will Benteen can’t make a go of the cotton, I’m willing to chip in and help out on that white elephant in Clayton County that you love so much.
    Margaret Mitchell  --  Gone with the Wind
  • The Overlook Hotel, a white elephant that has been run lucklessly by almost a dozen different groups and individuals since it first opened its doors in 1910, is now being operated as a security-jacketed "key club," ostensibly for unwinding businessmen.
    Stephen King  --  The Shining
  • ’They look like white elephants,’ she said.
    Ernest Hemingway  --  Hills Like White Elephants
  • THE BUDDHA DESCENDED from heaven to his mother’s womb in the shape of a milk-white elephant.
    Joseph Campbell  --  The Hero With a Thousand Faces

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  • Amory had lately received several alarming letters from Mr. Barton—the Lake Geneva house was too large to be easily rented; the best rent obtainable at present would serve this year to little more than pay for the taxes and necessary improvements; in fact, the lawyer suggested that the whole property was simply a white elephant on Amory’s hands.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald  --  This Side of Paradise
  • …some special virtue of its own, as in marbles, japonicas, and pearls; and though various nations have in some way recognised a certain royal preeminence in this hue; even the barbaric, grand old kings of Pegu placing the title "Lord of the White Elephants" above all their other magniloquent ascriptions of dominion; and the modern kings of Siam unfurling the same snow-white quadruped in the royal standard; and the Hanoverian flag bearing the one figure of a snow-white charger; and the…
    Herman Melville  --  Moby Dick
  • Publicly he called it his White Elephant.
    Thomas Wolfe  --  Look Homeward, Angel
  • [28] Concerning the American Language, in The Stolen White Elephant; Boston, 1882.
    Henry L. Mencken  --  The American Language
  • And then as an afterthought he added: "Gulden might not think you—a white elephant on his hands!
    Zane Grey  --  The Border Legion
  • I said the mountains looked like white elephants.
    Ernest Hemingway  --  Hills Like White Elephants

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  • ’They don’t really look like white elephants.
    Ernest Hemingway  --  Hills Like White Elephants
  • But if I do it, then it will be nice again if I say things are like white elephants, and you’ll like it?’
    Ernest Hemingway  --  Hills Like White Elephants
  • When Kona went out next day to graze the cows, playing music on his flute, the King of Heaven came down on his great white elephant, Airavata, fell on his face at the feet of the smiling lad, and made submission.9 The conclusion of the childhood cycle is the return or recognition of the hero, when, after the long period of obscurity, his true character is revealed.
    Joseph Campbell  --  The Hero With a Thousand Faces
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Associated words [difficulty]:   white elephant [9]
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Most commonly used in these subjects:   Business, Personal Finance, Sports
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