A Bull in a China Shop

It turns out bulls aren't actually clumsy. Here's where the phrase a bull in a china shop comes from.

Mignon Fogarty

bull in a china shop video

In last week’s show about animal idioms, I mentioned the phrase a bull in a china shop, which you’d use to describe someone who is clumsy or careless, and both Joseph and John on Twitter pointed out that the MythBusters have busted the myth that bulls are clumsy in china shops. 

The MythBusters set up a china shop in a bull ring, let in a bull, and he didn’t knock over anything. And he wasn’t just walking around carefully, he was trotting and maybe even running. It reminded me of a dog going through an agility  course—it was amazing, and then they let in two and three bulls and they still didn’t knock over anything. So although the phrase a bull in china shop seems like a good way to describe someone careless or clumsy, it turns out that we have been unfairly disparaging bulls.

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show.

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