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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

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

proverb Those who remain flexible and adaptable will be able to survive change, hardship, or adversity more easily than those who try to challenge or stand against it. The CEO doesn't tolerate people who won't go along with his ideas or change to meet his demands. A reed before the wind lives on, at least when you're working at this company. Luckily, I had diversified a lot of my revenue streams before the economic crash hit, so I was able to change tack and withstand the blow better than the large companies that had no room to maneuver. A reed before the wind lives on, while mighty oaks to fall.
See also: before, lives, mighty, oak, reed, while, wind

slender reed

Some source of support that proves to be extremely limited, weak, or unreliable. For all his boastful talk, he ended up being little more than a slender reed when the situation became challenging. The idea that voters' opinions will shift enough between now and election day is but a slender reed of hope that her campaign is clinging to at the moment. It was on this slender reed of evidence that the prosecution built their entire case.
See also: reed, slender
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

a broken reed

If you call a person or group a broken reed, you mean that they are now weak and hopeless, and do not have the power or influence that they had in the past. They recognized that their allies were a broken reed.
See also: broken, reed
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

a broken reed

a weak or ineffectual person, especially one on whose support it is foolish to rely.
This expression refers to Isaiah 36:6, in which the Assyrian general taunts King Hezekiah of Jerusalem about the latter's supposed ally, the Egyptian pharaoh: ‘Lo, thou trusteth in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt’.
See also: broken, reed
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

slender reed, a

A weak and unreliable support. This metaphor dates from biblical times, appearing in both Old and New Testaments. In the former, in the books of Isaiah and 2 Kings, it was applied to Egypt, which was variously described as a “broken” or “bruised” reed, not to be trusted if the Assyrians made war on the Hebrews. The term persisted into the mid-twentieth century but is heard less often today.
See also: slender
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Also offered are custom turning services, including: finials, table legs, island legs, split turnings, plain fluted and reeded columns.
Tiny details too good to overlook are the reeded, cast iron firebacks to many of the fireplaces and the tiny, private telephone room, beautifully finished and with its own courtyard view.
riva2 Edge Black PSoptions riva2 1050 Edge Black Reeded PS2700 Bourdeux Make a statement with the sleek Bordeaux surround, with its tasteful oyster panels.
A Caughley teapot with tulip pattern; A Caughley reeded teapot, decorated with black star and husk festoons; Chamberlain decorated Caughley teapot (1793) bearing the insignia of the Prince of Wales's brother - Frederick Duke of York; Caughley teapot with Famille Rose Pattern; Caughley Royal Flute teapot late 1780s, decorated with French-inspired Barbeaux Sprigs
Features include turned posts, reeded trim and scalloped designs that blend with metal accents, stitched leather and inlay marquetry patterns.
riva2 Edge PSriva2 1050 Edge Black Reeded PS2700 Riva2 530 & 670 Gas Fires The Gazco Riva2 530 and Riva2 670 gas fires offer you exciting options to help you create the perfect look for your home and taste.
Many of the decorative features in the shop echo motifs found in Faberge's work: swags, festoons and reeded columns were frequently used in the firm's designs.
Archipelago includes a love seat, lounge chair, chaise and side table in British and Dutch Colonial styling with details like plantation-shutter backs, rosettes and reeded legs.
The 6ft paintings, mounted in mahogany, cushion-style frames, with reeded and gilded decoration, were sold for pounds 9,500 at the Victoria Sale-rooms at Mold.