white elephant

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White Elephant

An investment, especially in real estate, that is expensive, unprofitable, and difficult to sell. An example is a house that is overbuilt for its neighborhood. A white elephant is perhaps one of least desirable investments possible.

white elephant

Like the legendary white elephants of India, a property that is expensive to maintain, doesn't return any particular value, and can't realistically be sold to anyone else.

References in classic literature ?
You won't stop, I know, as long as you can trail round in a white gown with your hair down, and wear gold-paper jewelry.
He, like the old writer, had a white mustache, and when he cried he puckered up his lips and the mustache bobbed up and down.
it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day
Now if I were not in Natal, I should say that there was a heavy fall of snow coming," said the White Man to himself.
Because I shall wear shining armor and gauntlets of steel, like the other white princes, and ride on a horse.
The Knight of the White Moon had been seen from the city, and it was told the viceroy how he was in conversation with Don Quixote.
He rather looked forward, too, to meeting white men again--creatures of his own kind-- for there had been many occasions upon which he had longed for other companionship than that of the old ape.
From one point a thin white thread of vapour rose slantingly to an immense height, and then frayed out like a down feather.
One man cannot be more man than another, as that which is white may be more or less white than some other white object, or as that which is beautiful may be more or less beautiful than some other beautiful object.
Many of them looked more like Indians than white men in their garbs and accoutrements, and their very horses were caparisoned in barbaric style, with fantastic trappings.
The taller the ship, the further she can be seen; and her white tallness breathed upon by the wind first proclaims her size.
The White Worm, in her own proper shape, certainly has great facilities for the business on which she is now engaged.