Dans la grande lessiveuse

mtocock

Member
UK
English - British
I have come across this expression (which I am presuming is idiomatic) and was hoping for some assistance understanding its meaning. I am aware that "lessiveuse" refers to a "wash tub" or "wash boiler" in English. Having looked at its use in sentences online it appears to refer, in a figurative and negative way, to something being somewhat lost (identity washed away) within a larger whole, something akin to "absorbed into the murky world/waters of", "disappearing into the void/ether of", or "in a tumultuous mass/world of" (like clothes in the wash tub?), but I may be completely wrong and would appreciate some clarification from native speakers.

When something is being described as being "dans la grande lessiveuse", what would would that mean? I do not have a specific context, as my source was in the context of spoken conversation, and I understand that depending on the context there may well be several translation options, but I want a more general understanding of the term. I include some texts found online of what I believe to be its figurative use:

"coupe l'individu moderne de ses racines et le jette sans mémoire, sans principes, sans identité dans la grande lessiveuse de la mondialisation."

"quand toute négativité est absorbée dans la grande “lessiveuse” culturelle."

"dans la grande lessiveuse des commissions occultes de l'affaire Sonatrach-Saipem est une piste sérieuse, d'autant que l'historique de TCH"

"Des masses et des individus ballottés dans la grande lessiveuse de l'Histoire ! Comme si les hommes ne savaient pas pourquoi ils montaient"

"gestionnaires d'eau ou les fabricants de pneus qui s'apprêtent à entrer, qu'ils le veuillent ou non, dans la grande lessiveuse du numérique."

Thanks in advance.
 
  • mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    The first expression that comes to my mind is "melting-pot"; it serves for several, if not all, of the above sentences.
    Thank you very much Keith,

    I had thought of melting-pot myself, but I figured it was perhaps too positive an expression. However, maybe I was interpreting the contexts in French as more negative than they really are.

    I agree with Keith, melting-pot sounds fine.
    Thank you Katleya,

    As a French native speaker, would you say the expression is often used in a positive or neutral way, like "melting-pot" in English?

    whirl ?
    turmoil / pandemonium
    Thank you for the suggestion. I am not sure if "whirl" would work in English. Would you say, as a native speaker, that the the expression in French is predominately negative or positive when it is used?
     
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    Katleya

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Mtocock, I must admit I have never heard this expression in French. If I remember well, "lessiveuses" were the ancestors of washing machines. That said, it conveys the idea of spinning, mixing and washing.
    In today's French, you are more likely to hear expressions like 'brassage', ex : brassage culturel or 'mélange'
     

    petit1

    Senior Member
    français - France
    For me it is mostly the expression of the spinning movement of a violent swirl. Things, events and people are being tossed back and forth without having much opportunity to escape, so it is not positive, rather the expression of helplessness.
    Someone on the forum suggested maelström, which was a good idea before deleting the post.
     

    mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    Mtocock, I must admit I have never heard this expression in French. If I remember well, "lessiveuses" were the ancestors of washing machines. That said, it conveys the idea of spinning, mixing and washing.
    In today's French, you are more likely to hear expressions like 'brassage', ex : brassage culturel or 'mélange'
    Thank you Katleya,

    Yes, or indeed "un melting-pot" or "un creuset" I believe are possible if you are talking about cultural diversity. Perhaps it is an old-fashioned expression.
     

    Katleya

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Sorry, I did not answer your question. Petit1 is right, the expression sounds predominately negative (again, if I remember well, boiling water was used in 'lessiveuses'!)
    Do all your examples come from the same source ? (Gee ! The author seems to be obsessed by the term ! He must have a backlog of washing :D !!!)
     

    mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    For me it is mostly the expression of the spinning movement of a violent swirl. Things, events and people are being tossed back and forth without having much opportunity to escape, so it is not positive, rather the expression of helplessness.
    Someone on the forum suggested maelström, which was a good idea before deleting the post.
    Thank you for the further clarification petit1.

    Maelstrom certainly implies the idea of chaos, although it obviously would not fit the context of some of the sentences I included in my original post. From your own experience is the expression very common in French, or is it a little archaic and old-fashioned?

    Sorry, I did not answer your question. Petit1 is right, the expression sounds predominately negative (again, if I remember well, boiling water was used in 'lessiveuses'!)
    Do all your examples come from the same source ? (Gee ! The author seems to be obsessed by the term ! He must have a backlog of washing :D !!!)
    Hi Katleya,

    Thank you, no they don't all come from the same source. They are just examples of its use that I found online. Otherwise that would be a lot of repetition :) It is useful to know that you consider it mainly has a negative meaning.
     
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    Katleya

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    Again to me it sounds a bit archaic.
    I suppose : 'être happé dans le tourbillon de ...' is more likely to be used in today's French .
     

    petit1

    Senior Member
    français - France
    I had never heard the expression before. It is not archaic rather the imagination of the author.
     

    Reynald

    Senior Member
    Français - France
    I have already come across this image, but only in articles about tax havens (same kind of context as your third example). They are often compared to une grande lessiveuse where illegal banking operations take place and dirty money, tax evasion money, etc. is laundered.
     
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    mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    I have come across this image already, but only in articles about tax havens (same kind of context as your third example). They are often compared to une grande lessiveuse where illegal banking operations take place and dirty money, tax evasion money, etc. is laundered.
    Thank you Reynald,

    That is useful to know. I guess it is a bit like when we use "dirty laundry" figuratively, sometimes when money laundering is involved.

    I had never heard the expression before. It is not archaic rather the imagination of the author.
    Thank you petit1,

    That is useful to know that you have not heard it before. I don't think it is specific to the idiolect of one author as I have encountered it in various different context as evidenced by the sentences in my original post. Although clearly, from what you and others have said it is not a common metaphor.
     
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    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    'Grande lessiveuse' seems to mean something where everything is thrown together and something different comes out at the end of the process. I think 'melting pot' is a good equivalent.
     

    Nicomon

    Senior Member
    Français, Québec ♀
    As a Quebecker, if I hear lessiveuse I see that kind of (circa 1950) washing machines.
    And although not being familiar with the expression, the idea of laundry comes to mind before spinning / turmoil.

    For instance in this first example
    "coupe l'individu moderne de ses racines et le jette sans mémoire, sans principes, sans identité dans la grande lessiveuse de la mondialisation."
    lessiveuse makes me think (more or less) of lavage / lessivage de cerveau = brainwashing.

    I also understand an idea of cleaning out in this example :
    Les pointilleux y verront une énième illustration du rôle de grande lessiveuse de la mondialisation, qui gomme les distinctions et spécificités culturelles pour en faire un grand village global uniforme.
    And in this one too :
    Le progressisme, qu’il soit communiste ou non, compagnon de route, de beuveries et de virées nocturnes ou non, est, depuis la fin de la guerre, la grande lessiveuse. Le blanchiment du passé sale n’a pas besoin de paradis fiscaux.
    And of course your third example, as Reynald already mentioned.

    I won't argue with natives that melting pot is a good equivalent, but I don't think it would work in all contexts where grande lessiveuse is used.
     
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    mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    'Grande lessiveuse' seems to mean something where everything is thrown together and something different comes out at the end of the process. I think 'melting pot' is a good equivalent.
    Thank you Itisi,

    Yes that certainly seems to be one option. However I think it would not fit all the contexts of the term, and, to my knowledge its use is a positive thing normally in English, whereas this often seems to be used in a negative context.
     

    mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    As a Quebecker, if I hear lessiveuse I see that kind of (circa 1950) washing machines.
    And although not being familiar with the expression, the idea of laundry comes to mind before spinning / turmoil.

    For instance in this first example lessiveuse makes me think (more or less) of lavage / lessivage de cerveau = brainwashing.

    I also understand an idea of cleaning out in this example :
    And in this one too : And of course your third example, as Reynald already mentioned.

    I won't argue with natives that melting pot is a good equivalent, but I don't think it would work in all contexts where grande lessiveuse is used.
    Thank you Nicomon,

    Yes it would appear that the "washing away of an identity" metaphor may well be closer to its meaning in some of these contexts than melting pot. Great to get a Quebec perspective on the term.
     

    mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    laundry tub (to keep the image)?
    Thank you for the suggestion. Perhaps in the context of a poem or literature with very figurative language, but I do not think it would fit the contexts in the original post and I have never heard of a metaphor with a laundry tub in English.
     

    Itisi

    Senior Member
    English UK/French
    Crucible ? (But an image of fire instead of water...!)

    • a difficult test or challenge

    • a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions
    Does the same word absolutely have to apply to all the sentences quoted...?
     
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    Nicomon

    Senior Member
    Français, Québec ♀
    Does the same word absolutely have to apply to all the sentences quoted...?
    I, for one, don't think we'd be able to find a "one word fits all" solution. It rarely ever is the case in translation, since the sense of a word can vary from a context to another.
    Lessiveuse is only one such example. :)
     

    mtocock

    Member
    UK
    English - British
    Then, that makes two of us! ;)
    Thank you for your suggestion Itisi,

    Nicomon and you are both right, as I said in my original post, it is highly likely that there is not one word that would fit all contexts. As I mentioned in my post, I am simply trying to get a better understanding of the term and get a sense of how it has been translated into English by different people in different contexts.
     
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