I was having a conversation with my Spanish friend, and I said:

Pero a Séréna no le hizo tanta gracia... La noche que se lo conté salió volando más de un plato, no te digo más...

The phrase in bold has a literal meaning of "(she) let more than a single plate fly" with understatement, and I used it metaphorically to express the idea of "we had a heated argument".

This phrasing works perfectly fine in Spanish, but I'm not sure if it works the same way in French. So to express the same idea in French, I would have sort of fallen back on a workaround and said something like:

≈ Mais Séréna... ne partageait pas mon enthousiasme. Et le ton est monté entre nous ce soir-là... c'est moi qui te le dis.

In Japanese culture, too, the idea of two people "throwing plates around" evokes the image of their "having a heated argument". In French, if I say something like:

En s'en prenant à moi, elle était à deux doigts de se mettre à me jeter des assiettes en pleine figure.

Is it generally taken as a metaphorical phrase describing a heated argument? Or if the idea does not translate well, how is it commonly expressed in French?

  • I don't have any reference so I won't make it an answer but my feeling is that is is much less idiomatic in French than you say it is in Spanish (assuming that "plato" is always used in Spanish). But indeed, references to broken dishes are also used in French to metaphorically speak about an argument, specifically between the members of a couple. – Laurent S. Aug 23 '19 at 11:23
  • @LaurentS. About the "broken dishes"... can you come up with a conversational sentence? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 23 '19 at 11:26
  • Laure did it very well in her answer below. I should probably have written "thrown dishes" instead of "broken", although throwing it usually breaks it too :-) – Laurent S. Aug 23 '19 at 11:34
  • @LaurentS. Don't forget plastic dishes...although I don't use them myself (not "green"). – None Aug 23 '19 at 11:36
  • @Laure > Indeed, but these are usually more lightweight, I personnally prefer to throw the good old ones, it hurts more :-) Metallic pan lids are also a good option :-) Just joking, in case the smileys aren't enough... – Laurent S. Aug 23 '19 at 11:47

En France on se jette la vaisselle à la figure. Comme quoi la vaisselle doit être souvent un sujet fréquent de dispute. Mais l'expression a largement dépassé le cadre de la cuisine !

après sept années de concubinage, les héros de la mini-série de France 2 Un gars, une fille, viennent en effet de se jeter la vaisselle à la figure et Chouchou est repartie chez sa mère. (Libération, 11/01/2003)

Finalement, ce n’est pas au départ de Limoges que les Armstrong-Contador ont choisi de se jeter la vaisselle à la figure mais à l’arrivée de Verbier... (Mediapart,19/07/2009)

Est-ce qu'après avoir fait front commun pour sauver la famille, on ne va pas voir les deux membres du couple se jeter la vaisselle à la figure ? (interview d'un homme politique, site gouvernemental)

L’AFP, Le Monde et Libération doivent bien rigoler en voyant les patrons se jeter la vaisselle à la figure… (blog)

Et même chez les « Grands » :

Comme, en outre, M. Trump envisage d'autres mesures destinées à résorber le déficit de son commerce extérieur, on peut parier qu'il fera au Québec des annonces tout aussi détestables que les précédentes. Un G7 où l'on ne sera pas loin de s'envoyer de la vaisselle à la figure. (Blog d'une liste municipale d'une petite commune bretonne, 07.06.2018)

Voici ce que dit le Dictionnnaire culturel en langue française à l'article vaisselle :

Fig. fam. S'envoyer la vaisselle à la tête : se disputer violemment.

Deux variantes donc.

| improve this answer | |
  • Is it a bit of a stretch to call them established idioms? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 23 '19 at 12:06
  • Oh, what I meant was: when you hear something like "Ce n'est pas la peine de se jeter la vaisselle à la figure", is it commonly seen as a metaphorical, idiomatic expression? I looked this up in several forums, but there is no related post in sight where it is shown as a fixed expression. I'd say this is quite a rare sight in this day and age, where nearly all the idiom-related questions have been exhausted somewhere. It's a good thing that I've posted this question, then. :D – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 23 '19 at 15:55
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    @Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Of course it is. No one will think for a minute you're going to throw anything at them. They understand you're just going to blow you top off. – None Aug 23 '19 at 16:02

You could stay closer to the original in French :

  • Elle était à deux doigts de faire voler les assiettes/la vaisselle.

It doesn't necessarily mean that plates are being thrown at you, it can describe such a heated dispute that one person ends up destroying plates and other items of crockery in a fit of rage.

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  • About "les assiettes/la vaisselle"... Is one as commonly used as the other? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Aug 24 '19 at 5:45
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    "vaisselle" is perhaps more commonly used, the idea is that when you get to that point in a dispute, you don't select plates in particular but let fly whatever you can get your hand on. – user21018 Aug 24 '19 at 5:55

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