"Bone of contention" and "apples of discord"


Senior Member
Belgium, Dutch
Brief question: how can you call an object or a symbolic object, or a topic that causes (continous) strife in your language?

Of course metaphorical expressions are the most interesting, but any suggestion regarding such issues is welcome of course...
  • In Mexican Spanish I only recall hearing manzana de la discordia (= "apple of discord") to refer to such a thing. I've seen some English-Spanish dictionaries translate bone of contention as both manzana de la discordia and caballo de batalla, but as for the latter, I don't think it's quite the same thing as the former; the DRAE defines it rather as the "main point/argument of a controversy", among other meanings that expression has in Spanish, of course.

    Interestingly, here in Mexico you can also hear or see manzana de la discordia used to talk, not about something, but about someone who is considered to be the cause of some misunderstanding, enmity, breakup, etc, between other people. Thus, you could come across the following:

    "Al parecer, la modelo X sería la manzana de la discordia que provocó la separación del actor A y su esposa, B, con quien llevaba diez años de casado."

    In the example above the hypothetical model would be an "apple of discord", because she's considered to be the one who caused the breakup between the actor and his wife.
    I think the manzana and the caballo are close in meaning. Like a twistappel: both the cause of the problem, but then also the focus. But we could not say that a person is een twistapppel. That person might be a spelbreker, a "game breaker", who interrupts the harmony, the process,..
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    In Greek we have:

    -«Μήλον της Έριδος» [ˈmilo̞nˌt̠iˈs̠e̞ɾiðo̞s̠] --> apple of Eris (quarrel, strife), a set phrase from antiquity «μῆλον τῆς Ἕριδος» /ˈmɛ̂ːlon ˈtɛ̂ːs ˈeridos/, with «Ἔρις» /ˈeris/ being the goddess of strife, discord & quarrel.
    «Ἔρις« /ˈeris/ (3rd declension fem. nom. sing.), «ἔριδος» /ˈeridos/ (3rd decl. fem. nom. sing.) --> strife, quarrel, contention, discord (of unknown etymology, could be IE, could be of substrate origin; some linguists see a connection with the verb «ὀρίνω» /oˈrinɔː/, Skt. अरि /ɐˈɾi/, enemy).

    -«Σημείον αντιλεγόμενον» [s̠iˈmio̞n.aŋdile̞ˈɣo̞me̞no̞n] --> a sign that will be spoken against, a set phrase from the Christian Gospel of Luke (2:34), when baby Jesus was brought before the righteous Simeon, the elder prophesied that Jesus will cause strife and become «σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον» /sɛːˈmêːon ɐntileˈgomenon/ = «καὶ εὐλόγησεν αὐτοὺς Συμεὼν καὶ εἶπε πρὸς Μαριὰμ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ· ἰδοὺ οὗτος κεῖται εἰς πτῶσιν καὶ ἀνάστασιν πολλῶν ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ καὶ εἰς σημεῖον ἀντιλεγόμενον» - "Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against'..." (Luke 2:34)

    -Also from the Christian scripture we use the Petrine «πέτρα σκανδάλου» [ˈpe̞t̠ɾa.s̠kanˈðalu] --> stone of offence; «σκάνδαλον» is literally the trap, but Peter uses it as offence, temptation, scandal (influenced by the Biblical language of the LXX scholars who translated the Hebrew scripture). The whole phrase in the First Epistle of Apostle Peter is «λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου» /ˈlitʰos.prosˈkomɐtosˈkɐi̯ˈpetrɐ.skanˈdalu/ --> a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence (1 Peter 2:8). We don't use the first part ("stone of stumbling") we definitely use the second part, it's one of those TV cliché catch phrases.

    Edit: Added «πέτρα σκανδάλου»
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    Interesting addition, Apmoy. I knew that phrase, but had never associated it with the bone of contention. I had read it mostly as: you will be discriminated against, you will be the victim of cirtics, etc. So I had thought not of strife, but of suffering, but I can see you can read it otherwise.
    Wikipedia refers to "pomo delle discordia" (or "mela") in Italian...

    Letzeburgisch (Luxemburgian) refers to "Sträitschnëtt", something like "a cut [schn...] of (?) strife"...

    Hungarian has "vita csontja", so it seems, meaning literally "bone of contention (debate?)".