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How the Elephant Stairs Got Their Name

Kushagra Gupta

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People here are always curious. They wonder about things like, what does jaywalking on Euclid feel like? What’s it like to actually read the Daily? It’s these questions that make our campus so incredible. One thought that a lot of Case Western Reserve University students have wondered about is how the elephant stairs were named; here are three sensible ideas that have crossed every CWRU student’s mind at least once.

(1) To start off, it’s important to think about the big picture. Ask yourself, “What is CWRU littered with?” That’s right, modern art. In reality, the Elephant Stairs could actually be a large piece of modern art that was donated to us. Seriously, take the fact that they’re not shaped like any shape you’ve seen before; each individual stair is basically its own size. The Ugly Statue and those Elephant Stairs are a match made in heaven.

Similar to many of the other statues, it has parts that are potentially dangerous to anyone nearby. For example, it’s easy to trip on the piece of art, and it’s even easier to mistake for just another piece of art and trip while searching for the staircase.

As with any modern art piece, it’s important to understand the artist’s goals. To begin, look at the staircase from the bottom. You should see a hole with two flaps on each side. If look closely, you’ll see that this feature is pretty self-explanatory. What else could it be, but a butt?

That’s right, every time you walk through the elephant stairs, you could actually be walking through an uninformed person’s representation of what an elephant’s digestive tract looks like. That would explain the darkness and the slop lying everywhere. It’s totally gross, but remember that this is modern art. After all, there’s a reason that most sophomores think that it’s a lot more fun going down, than up.

(2) As true as that may seem, it’s important to keep an open mind. What if the staircase was named due to an actual elephant staring at it? Imagine this, the staircase is being built, but the foliage around it is nonexistent. It is easily seen from Murray Hill Road. And who, you may ask, is on Murray Hill Road?

That’s right the elephant, staring, totally hard eye-contact style. And here’s the story of the staring elephant. This elephant never moved, and never made a noise. It stayed there all day and as the workday ended and as construction workers began to leave, they noticed the elephant. “Who is this great beast that looks upon us?” they asked themselves. The elephant didn’t answer, for elephants can’t speak.

The next day the elephant was still there, staring. The workers began to grow conscious of its presence, despite the fact that it stood still as a pyramid. They asked each other, “Who cast this elephant upon us? How may we work with it constantly watching us?” The workers kept working, however, for it was known that the elephant wouldn’t go anywhere, but the sun would leave them at the end of the work day.

Later, when the hour of the lunch break arrived, the workers approached the elephant, attempting to speak to it again, despite the fact that it was said that elephants cannot talk. Some say that the workers should have known that from their previous attempts.

A few offered the elephant their food and others prayed to it. The workers kept working, knowing that the elephant was still there. They tried to name the elephant, but they couldn’t agree on a name, for the elephant’s presence was too daunting for a Porta Potty discussion. Then, one worker looked upon the elephant staring and the staircase that was being built. He saw that the elephant needed no name, for an elephant is called an elephant; and so they would name the staircase.

It had probably also dawned on him, as he made his fast, that this made a good pun and would be considered humorous to those around him. And so from that day forth, the Elephant Staircase was dubbed, for it was stared upon by an elephant.

(3)That was a good story, but there are still other explanations out there. There’s one fact that anyone that has gone up the elephant stairs would agree with; that staircase is giant. It’s a pretty basic observation, really. And, what else is giant? That’s right, an elephant.

To be clear, the author is saying that an elephant is large, not a mouse, a rabbit or a squirrel. Don’t even think of a cow, that’s not even the right animal kingdom. (Admittedly, it’s easy to mix up a rhinoceros and an elephant, but here’s a quick way to figure it out. Look at the animal; does it look like an elephant? No? Then you can be pretty certain it’s not an elephant.)

It’s pretty straightforward, actually. An elephant is large. It’s difficult to climb. It’s painful if you’re doing it right, but especially if you accidentally do it wrong.

There’s no good reason to climb onto an elephant, unless your house is up there. No one builds his or her house on top of an elephant. Okay, well, there’s almost no one who would build his or her house on an elephant. It’s probably been done before, with a hammock or sleeping bag maybe.

Now, note the similarities that the elephant stairs have with an elephant. The fact that the stairs are giant was already established. The stairs are difficult to climb, especially because the steps are weird and there is barely any lighting at night. At some point you’ll wonder why you decided to commit to climb the staircase in the first place. Then you’ll remember that you chose to live up there, on top of an elephant, and there is nothing cooler than that.

Elephant Stairs

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