slender reed

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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.

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
References in periodicals archive ?
Jackson applies the gesso and, when it has dried, breathes on it through a slender reed. This provides the moisture that will allow gold leaf to adhere so it can be burnished to a dazzling and lasting brilliance.
"Marketing expertise" seems like a slender reed to justify this deal, since a promising new drug does not exactly require a hard sell, like a new brand of perfume.