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The following paragraph was extracted from a text in the book Objective Proficiency (workbook). The text is about couching couples on correct behavior on corporate functions. I don't understand the part that is in bold below.

(1st paragraph in the text) Charles Sacarello is talking about an ambitious executive who had almost reached the top of the corporate ladder. There was only one problem that threatened to block his career path — his wife. Bored and lonely sitting at home while her husband was out at work all day, she ‘metamorphosed into a bulldozer at corporate events. She dominated conversations; ploughed her way through trays of canapés and never said ‘no’ to another glass of champagne.

(2nd paragraph, just for context) Socially inept spouses are Sacarellos bread and butter. The Gibraltar-born image consultant whose firm, Charles & Associates, has become popular in New York, teaches executives’ wives — and husbands — how to behave at corporate functions. Spouses hire him for coaching on everything from table manners and how much jewellery to wear (‘Don't look like a Christmas tree’) to finding the right conversation filler. “There are bright young men who have made it up the career ladder and their wives don't reflect the position they are trying to occupy;” he says.

I understand the meaning of plough, tray and canapés.

  • plough: to move with a lot of effort or force. Retrieved from Longman
  • tray: a flat piece of plastic, metal, or wood, with raised edges, used for carrying things such as plates, food etc. Retrieved from Longman
  • canapé: a small piece of bread with cheese, meat etc on top, which is served with drinks at a party. Retrieved from Longman

As for my understanding, the literal meaning of that part would be to move around in a restaurant with a lot of force in such a way that she doesn't care about hitting waiters/waitress that are moving trays of canapés. The figurative meaning would be that she seems to have a lot of confidence in a restaurant because she moves freely, but not necessarily disturbing the waiters/waitresses.

Can anyone confirm that the figurative meaning I've come up with is the correct meaning of that expression in the text?

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  • Your literal interpretation is correct. The only metaphorical element is the metamorphosis into a bulldozer.
    – Graffito
    Commented Jul 11, 2023 at 21:01

2 Answers 2

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To "plough through" something means to move through it with great speed or force. To "plough through a tray of canapes" is to set upon the food with great speed or vigor - picture the person grabbing canapes by the handful and stuffing them into their mouth. Canapes are a somewhat delicate and fancy type of food, so the use of "plough through" here highlights the rather uncouth, inappropriate, un-delicate approach to such a food.

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    I can say that my capable and hard-working assistant ploughed through the work that I assigned to him, without implying anything uncouth or disapproving, rather the opposite. The canapé lady ignored etiquette or social norms to satisfy her appetite; my assistant ignored her own fatigue and boredom to complete the task. Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 9:15
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I think you are reading plough and tray too literally.

Plough meaning "move with much effort or force" is itself a metaphorical extension of using a plough on the earth: she is going through canapés like a plough goes through earth.

Trays of canapés is specified because that's how canapés are served at events: on trays, not in boxes or bags or anything else, but on trays full of canapés.

How does one go through canapés? By eating them. And she is not just eating canapés, she is eating entire trays full of them.

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