I always knew the elephant in the room means there is a real problem or issue here. Nobody is addressing it directly and everybody is tip toeing around it. One day I wanted to know and discovered that a lot of people had no idea. George, who knows a lot of these things, told me this:
White elephants were considered sacred in Siam and laws protected them from labor. Receiving a gift of a white elephant from the king was simultaneously both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because the gift was a sign of the king’s favour, and a curse because the elephant had to be retained, could not be put to much practical use, and was expensive to maintain.
White elephants are symbols for things where the value is outweighed significantly by its upkeep. However, the value holder of the white elephant doesn’t realise the burden and it may be difficult to talk to him (or her for that matter) about it. There is the possibility it is being done on purpose. And there is only one way to find out and address it.