"waiting for the other shoe to drop"

Posted by ESC on October 26, 2001

In Reply to: Origin of phrase "waiting for the other shoe to drop" posted by C Pfeil on October 26, 2001

: Anyone have an idea as to the origin of the phrase "waiting for the other shoe to drop"?

From the discussion archives:

Waiting for the other shoe to drop -- We use this phrase to describe waiting for some expected occurrence. It's my theory that "waiting for the other shoe to drop" is a phenomenon experienced by apartment dwellers. A person in the upstairs apartment is preparing for bed. He sits on the bed, takes off Shoe No. 1 and lets it drop on the uncarpeted floor. Then takes off Shoe No. 2 and lets it drop. This can all be clearly heard by the folks in the downstairs apartment. If there is a long pause after Shoe No. 1 drops, the downstairs people are stuck "waiting for the other shoe to drop." Since I didn't grow up in an apartment, I imagine I saw this "routine" on one of the early TV sit-coms.

: "Drop the other shoe" . . . "arose from a story about a lodging-house" (Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day). Probably the story preceded the sitcoms, as lodging houses (Amer.: "rooming houses") were no longer so common by the time TV came around, and humor writers have been known to adapt old jokes when they need material. I heard the joke as a child in the 1950s. Basically the same as the sitcom version, except the man downstairs is trying to sleep. ...Here's the story: A man who lives on an upper floor of a rooming house comes home late at night and starts to undress. First he takes off one shoe and drops it loudly on the floor, waking up the man in the room below. Then he remembers to be quiet. He takes off the other shoe and sets it down carefully and silently. After a long interval, his neighbor, who has been lying awake all this time, yells up, "For God's sake, drop the other shoe!"