Idioms: Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Red Wing Heritage boots, wikimedia commons

When you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, are you caught out in a rainstorm of shoes? No, you are waiting for something to happen, something that you expect to happen. But what does waiting have to do with shoes?

For the answer to this, we need to go back in time to manufacturing boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Apartment buildings were thrown together for all of the new residents coming to New York City. They were all built in the same style, with one bedroom on top of another. Living in an apartment, you get used to hearing noises from those beside you and those above you.

winter shoes, pixabay

One noise that all of the apartment dwellers experienced was when the residents took their shoes off each night. Now, you could have been lucky and the one living above you would gently set their shoes on the floor as they were taken off, but that wasn’t the norm. The person would take one shoe off and drop it on the floor, and the person below would hear the thump when it hit. Another thump when the other shoe hit the floor was expected.

shoes, public domain pictures

Noise from neighbors is still annoying, but it normally isn’t from the thump of shoes hitting the floor. What is more normally heard nowadays could be toddlers playing, furniture being moved, or a loud television. My guess for the most common obtrusive noise would be loud music, whether it be classical, country, rap, or rock.

Today waiting for the other shoe to drop to anticipate something negative happening as a result of or related to a previous negative event.

writing pig,

Writing Prompts
Your assignment is to write a story where your main character is the very first person to use the idiom waiting for the other shoe to drop. That would mean your main character lived in an apartment in New York City in the late 19th or early 20th century during the manufacturing boom. This character could be American or it could be someone who has legally immigrated to the United States.

Now zoom forward to 2017. There is no more waiting on your upstairs neighbor to drop the other shoe, but the need to declare bankruptcy just became apparent and your marriage is heading towards divorce. They say that bad things come in threes, so now you’re waiting for yet another shoe to drop. What is this third bad thing, and how does it affect your life?


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