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Waiting for the other shoe

Posted by R. Berg on February 06, 2001

In Reply to: Waiting for the other shoe posted by ESC on February 05, 2001

: : Where did this come from? Also: waiting for the other shoe to drop.

: 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, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases British and American"). 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. I once typed the whole joke into the Phrase Finder contributions window. Perhaps Gary Martin will cut and paste it for us?