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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was watching a program on TV tonight and they brought up a saying or phase I have not heard in years. Does anyone remember what "Have You Seen the Elephant" or "I've Seen the Elephant" means? It is a very old term, but it is still appropriate today. It was used long before Colt ever made his first revolver, but it certainly was said after his first revolver was in use.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ding, ding, ding, You are on to something. It was widely used during the Civil War, but I think it may have actually started during Hannibal's time. Now what does it mean?

My understanding is the phrase came out of the American Civil War.
 

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It means to have seen combat. I have an old copy of Civil War Times from the 1960s where I first read the term when I was a kid.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You got it John. When we were in Nam, there were a bunch of us that were big Civil War nuts. Someone got some issues of Civil War Times sent to them and we read them from cover to cover. We started to use the phrase and it caught on with a bunch of the grunts that overheard us and were assigned to protect us. Yep, we had seen combat alright, and you never forget it.
 

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When Hannibal got to the top of the Alps, it is said that he looked back at the path his elephants had taken and said "Let them try to ski thru that!"
 

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As a very young child I was all excited that the traveling circus was setting up in a field close by. Us kids went to watch them set up tents and marveled as the circus folks used elephants a great deal to pull ropes. All us kids really laughed and I never thought I would see anything urinate as much as the elephants did, what a flood. Fast forward to talking my daughter to the Phoenix zoo and watching a rhino, must have been ten gallons come out and a river was born.

I have seen the elephant and the rhino, :cool: ya I know it's not what Jeff Cooper was talking about.:bang_wall:
 

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I frankly did not know the expression was related to war experiences at all, but I have heard it off and on since childhood, but with this difference.

He has "seen the elephant and heard the owl";.. was an expression oft used when a young farm boy left home to gain his fame and fortune, but, after no material gain except some of life's experiences, mostly of the down and out kind, he returned wiser but no richer.

Usually, when back home he would fall back in line following "Jenny the mule", but at least he had "seen the elephant and heard the owl".
I never thought the expression made much practical sense, but many of the old country homilies didn't either.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I am glad this thread started. There were some other meanings that I did not know about, but "Seeing the Elephant" was an experience for those who lived life.
 

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I'm not quite an old timer but I have heard a few "elephant phrases." I learned the meaning of "hung like an elephant" a short time after my high school sweetheart left me for another man.
 
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