E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
A bull in a china shop. A maladroit hand interfering with a delicate business; one who produces reckless destruction.
A brazen bull. An instrument of torture. (See PHALARIS.)
He may bear a bull that hath borne a calf (Erasmus: Proverbs)He that accustometh hym-selfe to lytle thynges, by lytle and lytle shalbe able to go a waye with greater thynges (Taverner).
To take the bull by the horns. To attack or encounter a threatened danger fearlessly; to go forth boldly to meet a difficulty. The figure is taken from bull-fights, in which a strong and skilful matadore will grasp the horns of a bull about to toss him and hold it prisoner.
John Bull. An Englishman. Applied to a native of England in Arbuthnots ludicrous History of Europe. This history is sometimes erroneously ascribed to Dean Swift. In this satire the French are called Lewis Baboon, and the Dutch Nicholas Frog.
One would think, in personifying itself, a nation would picture something grand, heroic, and imposing, but it is characteristic of the peculiar humour of the English, and of their love for what is blunt, comic, and familiar, that they have embodied their national oddities in the figure of a sturdy, corpulent old fellow with red waistcoat, leather breeches, and a stout oaken cudgel [whom they call] John Bull.Washington Irving.