reed


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a broken reed

An unreliable or unsupportive person. I thought I could count on my best friend for support during this difficult time, but she proved to be a broken reed and never returned my calls.
See also: broken, reed

broken reed

an unreliable or undependable person. (On the image of a useless, broken reed in a reed instrument.) You can't rely on Jim's support. He's a broken reed. Mr. Smith is a broken reed. His deputy has to make all the decisions.
See also: broken, reed

reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall

Prov. An insignificant, flexible person is more likely not to get hurt in a crisis than a prominent or rigid person. Our office has new managers now; I plan to be as inconspicuous as possible while they reorganize everyone. A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks do fall.
See also: before, fall, lives, mighty, oak, reed, wind

broken reed

A weak or unreliable support, as in I'd counted on her to help, but she turned out to be a broken reed. The idea behind this idiom, first recorded about 1593, was already present in a mid-15th-century translation of a Latin tract, "Trust not nor lean not upon a windy reed."
See also: broken, reed
References in classic literature ?
John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older than I, for I was but ten: large and stout for his age, with a dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage, heavy limbs and large extremities.
Reed returned, and were hailed with the most anxious eagerness.
And certainly, whenever the wind blew, the Reed made the most graceful curtseys.
She smiled upon him with a smile that seemed the visible music of his pipe of reeds.
Father Brown, though commonly a silent, was an oddly sympathetic little man, and in those few but endless hours he unconsciously sank deeper into the secrets of Reed House than his professional friend.
I ran over the white space and down a steep slope, through a scattered growth of trees, and came to a low-lying stretch of tall reeds, through which I pushed into a dark, thick undergrowth that black and succulent under foot.
The elasticity of the reeds quickly recovering from the temporary pressure of our bodies, caused them to spring back to their original position; so that they closed in upon us as we advanced, and prevented the circulation of little air which might otherwise have reached us.
Edgar Caswall, who was now wholly obsessed by the kite and all belonging to it, found a distinct resemblance between that intermittent rumble and the snake-charming music produced by the pigeons flying through the dry reeds.
The anchor, instead of catching the branches of the tree, took hold in the masses of reeds mixed with the thick mud of the marshes, which offered considerable resistance.
From the shelter of the reeds along the river, Werper and Tarzan watched the blacks.
One of the ape-man's hands clutched the thick mane, and as the bull raced madly through the reeds the thing striking at his life was dragged beside him.
It fell among some Reeds, which it thus addressed: "I wonder how you, who are so light and weak, are not entirely crushed by these strong winds.
So, hiding it among the reeds by the water's edge, he returned to his master.
She waters her horses from Meles deep in reeds, and swiftly drives her all-golden chariot through Smyrna to vine-clad Claros where Apollo, god of the silver bow, sits waiting for the far-shooting goddess who delights in arrows.
When they reached a little marsh Levin would have driven by, but Stepan Arkadyevitch, with the experienced eye of a sportsman, at once detected reeds visible from the road.