bull » bowl
Spotted in the wild:
- And she’s described in reports as a bowl in a china shop, but somebody of unassailable high ethics, and also as a direct, directly reporting to the then chief financial officer. (CNN.com, rush transcript, January 16, 2002)
- He [a dog] was kinda like a bowl in a china shop so to say. (If you knew how my mother is, & all of her nicknacks.) You would understand my last statement. He would knock everything over with his tail. (Midwest Exotics)
- I begin to feel like a bowl in a china shop (which I guess must be pretty fragile). (guestbook entry)
- On an intuition, Jennifer offered, “That’s why you and Mr Tate get along so well. He’s like an earthenware bowl in a china shop because he’s more real … more solid and down-to-earth.” (Ex Isle Forums, original fiction, February 19, 2005)
- After numerous setbacks, I have finally made some progress with the BAR and CARB smog debacle. SInce I bought the car with Canadian title and license plates, this car has been like a bowl in a china shop with the BAR referee. (E28 Enthusiasts Forum, March 24, 2004)
Analyzed or reported by:
- Paul Brians (alt.usage.english, Jan 30, 2006)
Paul Brians reported the quote from the CNN transcript to the Usenet forum `alt.usage.english`. There aren’t many clear examples of this reshaped idiom in the search engine archives, but it is mentioned as an “error of Engish” in a few places, for example in a long thread of April 2005 on the TiVo Community site, available via Google Cache.
The opinions on why _bowl_ instead of _bull_ vary. A Livejournal commenter admits to the eggcorn:
> I used to think “bull in a china shop” was “bowl in a china shop.”
> which made me wonder, wouldn’t a store that sells place settings actually WANT bowls in the shop?
To which the Livejournal’s owner replies:
> Ha! Even funnier was that when I read that, I was thinking “hmm, it WOULD be dangerous to bowl in a china shop”—but you meant bowl as a NOOOOUN.
From the few examples we have, _bowl_ can conjure up
- the notion of fragility and/or the semantic overlap with _china_
- the idea that a mundane bowl would feel out of place surrounded by delicate china
- the perilous activity of bowling in a china shop, a concept not unlike that of the original idiom