the other shoe..

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Fri May 7 02:54:09 UTC 1999

On Thu, 6 May 1999, Bryan Gick wrote:

> I just got a query about the origins of the phrase "waiting for the other
> shoe to drop", but have been unable to find anything on it (outside of Pat
> Oliphant's collection of political cartoons by that title, and lots of
> citations on the web). No previous mention in the ADS-L archives as far as
> I can tell. Any thoughts?

There is surprisingly little documentation of this phrase in lexical or
proverb dictionaries.  All I found of substance was Whiting, Modern
Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings, which has a 1975 citation.

My own research turns up "other shoe may never drop" in Mathematics of
Computation 20: 174 (1966).  Still earlier, there was an article in the
April 1963 issue of National Civic Review (p. 189) entitled "Awaiting the
Other Shoe."

As for the phrase's derivation, I believe it comes from a folk-story in
which someone can't fall asleep because he or she heard the noise of one
shoe dropping to the floor beside the bed one floor above them, but never
heard the other shoe dropping.

Fred R. Shapiro                             Coeditor (with Jane Garry)
Associate Librarian for Public Services     TRIAL AND ERROR: AN OXFORD
  and Lecturer in Legal Research            ANTHOLOGY OF LEGAL STORIES
Yale Law School                             Oxford University Press, 1998
e-mail: fred.shapiro at               ISBN 0-19-509547-2

More information about the Ads-l mailing list