I was listening to my daily On refait le monde podcast when one of the journalists referred to the barrel of the Danaids. This is what he said:
Une taxe, c’est quelque chose qu’on nous prend et qu’on nous rend pas, qui tombe dans le tonneau des Danaïdes.
A tax is something that is taken from us and that we don’t get back: it falls in the barrel of the Danaids.
There seems to be different versions of the myth of the Danaids, but this is a summary of what I found in my copy of “La mythologie”, by Edith Hamilton. Danaus had 50 daughters (the Danaids) and happened to have a twin brother, Aegyptus, who had 50 sons and thought a mass-wedding between cousins would be a good idea, but Danaus and his daughters refused. They had to accept in the end, but Danaus ordered the Danaids to kill their husbands, which they did (all apart from one). As punishment, the Danaids were condemned to fill a leaky barrel for all eternity.
So in this context, the journalist was comparing tax revenue to a leaky barrel. How would you translate it into English? A bottomless pit maybe? This biblical reference to the abyss, where evil spirits are kept prisoners, mirrors the mythological reference, but has moral connotations which don’t quite work. Any other ideas?