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I looked up on Google for the meaning of this expression but I didn't succeed. Could anyone tell me the meaning of the expression "It's like furnishing a nursery with egg-shell china"? And also, if it is used nowadays? Here's the context.

The serious people who took him seriously never felt quite sure of his deportment: they were somehow aware that trusting their reputations for judgment with him was like furnishing a nursery with egg-shell china.

I saw this expression in the book The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

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  • Welcome to ELL! I don't have the book, but I'm sure it helps if you improve your citation to include the page number or improve the context by including more text. – M.A.R. Apr 17 '15 at 12:51
  • Would this be a better fit for english.se? – Pureferret Apr 17 '15 at 15:41
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I found the context of this sentence, and, from what I'm able to gather, the narrator doesn't trust the Time Traveller.

"The serious people who took him seriously never felt quite sure of his deportment: they were somehow aware that trusting their reputations for judgment with him was like furnishing a nursery with egg-shell china."

This to me sounds like "furnishing a nursery with egg-shell china" is to mean that it's a bad idea. You wouldn't want babies around easily breakable, and probably expensive, plates and such.

Also, people don't use this phrase much (that I've heard of). My guess is because it's not intended to be an idiom; it's simply a comparison. "Bull in a china shop" is more prevalent.

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    They think their reputations will be destroyed by him in the same way that eggshell china would be destroyed by children. I've never heard it before either, although it's quite an evocative phrase. – ssav Apr 17 '15 at 14:05
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    I agree it's just a straightforward simile. The figurative sense derives directly from the literal meaning, so it's not an "idiom". And it' has effectively no currency except among people quoting Wells' effectively one-off usage, so we can't call it a "saying". It's just "creative writing". – FumbleFingers Apr 17 '15 at 14:15
  • ... I'd also note that "eggshell china" is a very dated expression itself, whether hyphenated or not. – FumbleFingers Apr 17 '15 at 14:17
  • Thank you Nicole for your answer and the other guys for their comments. – Mauricio Junio Moura Mendes May 8 '15 at 14:39
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A nursery is a child's room. Egg-shell china is fragile. Children are rambunctious and lack caution. How long will the cups and saucers remain intact?

Unlike "bull in a china shop", this child-china metaphor is not a common expression.

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