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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 ?
'The hardest part was taking some rest, I kept racing so I train harder and harder and then you're not racing because you're tired and your body's telling you to take a break,' said Reed. 'I took a break, reset, and put work into training harder.'
That has inspired me to strive to be half of the designer and businesswoman she is," Reed said.
Reed earned the nickname 'Captain America' from his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles in 2014, when antics such as cupping his hand to his ear and pumping his fists endeared him to European fans.
Needing a two-putt par from 26 feet at the 18th to clinch the title, Reed ran his first putt four feet past the hole, took a deep breath and held his nerve rolling a knee-knocker into the cup for a one-under 71 that ended Fowler's hopes of a playoff.
However, Reed will instead find himself receiving an even stiffer sentence, and once again, Mattie will have something to do with it.
Dumas, Reed's journalistic kid brother at the Gazette from 1960 to Reed's departure in 1965, is now his heir as Arkansas' senior reporter.
He further wrote, "Rarely can we accurately say that someone was as big as the Beatles, but Dean Reed was"...
Prosecutor Emma Atkinson told Teesside Crown Court Andrew Reed was arrested in Marton Road on December 12 after breaking his leg jumping from a bedroom window.
If a magnetic field is applied along the axis of the reed blades, the field is intensified in the reed blades because of their ferromagnetic nature, the open contacts of the reed blades are attracted to each other, and the blades deflect to close the gap.
Shooting nearly 2,000 rounds each week, Reed practiced at an indoor range his father built.
Melinda Reed Masters grew up hearing stories about her uncle, a champion swimmer at the University of Oregon, lifeguard in Seaside and Army test pilot who died in a training accident in 1942.
REED & BARTON STEPS INTO THE SPOTLIGHT AT THE TABLETOP SHOW THIS month, where its new parent, Lenox, believes the underappreciated silver company will shine.
M2 EQUITYBITES-May 15, 2015-Lenox Closes Acquisition of US Silversmith Maker Reed and Barton
A divided Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Monday issued a stay of execution for death row inmate Rodney Reed so new evidence can be considered that Reed's attorneys say proves their client's innocence.