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 ?
It is a white man's soldier-boat with many soldier men upon it.
Also have I asked the white men, and they have said yes, there is no snow in that country.
But after that they give him much better grub, and they give him money, and they take him many places in white man's country, and he see many strange things which are beyond the understanding of Ebbits, who is an old man and has not journeyed far.
But there was no way to go to the white man's country," said Zilla.
In the grass-thatched barracks nearly two hundred woolly-headed man-eaters slept off the weariness of the day's toil, though several lifted their heads to listen to the curses of one who cursed the white man who never slept.
Three times, four times, and half a dozen times, his sharp little teeth scored on the newcomer, until White Fang, yelping shamelessly, fled to the protection of his mother.
Kiche licked White Fang soothingly with her tongue, and tried to prevail upon him to remain with her.
White Fang came in until he touched Grey Beaver's knee, so curious was he, and already forgetful that this was a terrible man-animal.
But daylight brought a cutter, in which were two white men, who were not afraid of eleven Malaita men armed with twelve rifles.
Port Adams was now three years and a half away, so he stole a canoe one night, hid on the islets in Manning Straits, passed through the Straits, and began working along the eastern coast of Ysabel, only to be captured, two-thirds of the way along, by the white men on Meringe Lagoon.
Not even a white missionary has landed on its shore.
With the party that the very bad white man was pursuing.