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Broken reed

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on August 22, 2008 at 09:49

In Reply to: Broken reed posted by G. Freeman on August 21, 2008 at 21:08:

: I am interested in the phrase "broken reed". My assumption is that it is something that can't be fixed. Is this correct?

: Also, I read the section under "get your goat". It was my understanding that racehorses are very skittish if left alone, but won't sleep well with other horses, so they would be stabled with a goat as a non-threatening, non-stimulating and calming companion. To improve chances of winning a race an unscrupulous competitor might hire someone to steal the goat from the opponent's stable on the night preceding the contest. The connotation would be that this would rile up the horse. Thus, if someone "gets your goat" they rile you up.

No, a "broken reed" is not something that can't be fixed; it's something or someone on which can't be relied on or support. It comes from the Old Testament, e.g. Isaiah xVIII,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." (VSD)