Dead man's shoes
Posted by Victoria S Dennis on June 23, 2007
In Reply to: Dead man's shoes posted by Smokey Stover on June 22, 2007
: : Hi, can anyone tell me the meaning of "dead man's shoes"?
: Dunno if it has any universal meaning, but one often hears of the difficulty of filling some particular dead man's shoes.
The phrase "waiting for dead men's shoes" means being in a situation where you can't advance or be promoted through any merit or effort of your own, but have to wait for someone else to die or retire so you can step into his place (figuratively, "into his shoes"). It dates back to the 16th century. It's less often used now, simply because that kind of situation is much less common that it was in the 16th-19th centuries, when all kinds of official posts where held for life and there was no official retirement age. (VSD)