The meaning of, and background to, the well-known expression "A bull in a china shop.

Well-Known Expressions

A bull in a china shop

Meaning:

To move awkwardly in such a way that things are likely to get broken, or to behave in a way that offends people

Background:

The current use of the phrase would appear to trace back to Frederick Marryat's Jacob Faithful (1834):

"Whatever it is that smashes, Mrs. T. always swears it was the most valuable thing in the room. I'm like a bull in a china shop."

However, variations on the expression are found much earlier, such as Aesop who spoke of an "ass in a potter's shop". Variations on a the same theme can also be found in a number of other modern languages.

Alphabetical list of expressions

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