broken reed

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From broken + reed (with reference to quotation 1611, below).


broken reed (plural broken reeds)

  1. Something or someone very fragile or unreliable.
    • 1611, Bible, Authorized (King James) Version, Isaiah 36:6:
      Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.
    • 2002, Colin Jones, The Great Nation, Penguin 2003, p. 543:
      Many of the big estates survived. Nor was the peasantry a broken reed in terms of demand for manufactured products.
    • 2011, Simon Jenkins, The Guardian, 5 Jul 2011:
      A law on privacy would be cumbersome and hard to police, but as the Press Complaints Commission is a broken reed in this matter, each scandal makes it harder to stave off calls for legislation.