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See a pink elephant vs See the elephant

see a pink elephanthave visionary hallucinations caused by alcoholism (also: see pink elephants):

  • One time when I got loaded on beer I heard water running when there was none and I did see a pink elephant.

see the elephant—(U.S. coll.) gain worldly experience (having been to far-off places, visiting sights, etc.):

  • He is quite well able to take care of himself; he has seen the elephant.