"Waiting for the other shoe to drop” is a popular business idiom. A person wears two shoes; when a person takes off one shoe and drops it on the floor, it’s expected that the other shoe will also drop. In the business world, for example, a company might announce a large quarterly loss (one shoe dropping) and then announce the layoff of thousands of employees (the other shoe dropping).
The August 11, 1905 citation below appears to be the original story. A person rooming directly above a nervous hotel boarder dropped one shoe loudly, but then quietly took off the other shoe. The nervous boarder couldn’t sleep, waiting for the other shoe to drop!
Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
Waiting for a related announcement or event to occur after an initial announcement or situation. When waiting for the other shoe to drop, one expects a pending situation to occur that is dependent upon an initial event; for example, waiting for a presidential nominee to indicate his vice-presidential preference.
The Free Dictionary
wait for the other shoe to drop (American)
to wait for something bad to happen.
Once a company starts laying of employees, those who are still working feel they are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
16 April 1905, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. D7:
“At one time we lived under a couple for months. The man came home ‘loaded’ half the time, and Mark Twain’s story about waiting to hear the other shoe drop was borne in upon me. He always knocked over a chair while preparing for bed, and I have waited in an agony of suspense for half an hour, listening to him prowling around in the dark looking for his nightshirt, for him to knock over that chair, and when it finally crashed down upon the floor I went to sleep happy.”
11 August 1905, Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette, “Had Waited and Waited,” pg. 4, cols. 2-3:
From Sentinel Hotel Column: “I had a peculiar experience in a little hotel up in the state last week,” said John Spearman of Chicago, at the Republican house. “I know the landlord pretty well, and whenever I visit his house he tries to give me a good room But this time when I registered he seemed put out about something, and when the time came for me to go to the room to which I had been assigned to he came over and said that he would like to have a little talk with me.
“‘I am sorry to have to do this, Mr. Spearman,’ he said, ‘but the only room I have to give you is directly over that of one of our regular boarders, who is an unusually nervous man. We never rent the room until all the others have been filled, and I must ask you not to make any noise, as you may rob the poor fellow of his entire night’s rest by a little carelessness.’
“I assured the landlord that I would be most careful, but before retiring I attended a theatre and when I came in I had entirely forgotten the circumstances. I sat on the bed and took off one shoe, which I dropped with a crush.
“Suddenly I remembered the nervous man below me. Without a particle of noise I got to bed and could only hope that the one shoe which I had let fall had not disturbed the invalid. As I was dropping off to sleep there was a knock at my door. I quietly got up and opened it, and discovered a man attired in a long bath robe.
“‘I trust you will pardon me for disturbing you, sir,’ he said, ‘but I have the room below you and am an exceptionally nervous man. I heard you drop your shoe some time ago, and ever since I have tried in vain to go to sleep. I fear I shall be unable to do so unless I hear you drop the other one, if it will not be too much trouble.’”
24 November 1907, Dallas (TX) Morning News, magazine supplement, pg. 7:
“One would know it was Jim’s week by looking at that chimney,” muttered the Boss, eyeing the offending chimney discontentedly as he dropped the other shoe.
28 July 1910, Boston (MA) Journal, “Little Stories of the Town,” pg. 6:
Remember that perennial entertainer, the story about the insomniac, who stayed awake hours waiting for the noisy drummer to drop the other shoe?
12 July 1913, Boston (MA) Journal, pg. 6:
Being Boston bred and raised I have some red blood in my veins, so when I turned over for that last nap this morning like the man waiting for the other shoe to drop, I listened expectantly for some noise to show that it was the dawn of the nation’s birthday, but I was obliged to listen so long that I got wide awake and stayed so.
30 June 1918, Duluth (MN) News-Tribune, section 2, pg. 1:
THIS is a period of waiting. It is a hiatus with just enough doing to keep you on edge. A clever Duluthian fitted it with the story of the man who got the last room in a hotel of thin partitions. He was warned to be quiet as in the next room was an old man who was a nervous wreck. Of course he forgot and dropped a shoe. Instantly came a querulous voice: “Stop that—noise.” Gently the man placed the other shoe and crept into bed. In about 10 minutes the same voice, higher pitched, came through the wall: “For God’s sake drop that other shoe!” If only Germany would “drop that other shoe” it would be a great relief.
The Cup of Fury:
A Novel of Cities and Shipyards
By Rupert Hughes
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
The period of waiting was as maddening as the suspense of the poor insomniac who implored the man next door to “drop the other shoe.”
20 March 1921, New York (NY) Times, pg. BRM5:
If nine out of ten of us hadn’t heard that “drop that other shoe” chestnut and molded our lives accordingly for the sake of the neighbor below us, what would be the end of us?
Google News Archive
18 November 1930, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette,"Business W0rld Today” by J. O. Boyle, pg. 25, col. 2:
The old story of the man who heard the man in the room above him drop one shoe and then lay awake for hours waiting for the other shoe to drop is fully borne out as a principle of industrial efficiency.
20 May 1933, New York (NY) Times, pg. 12:
How soon will the Japanese enter Peping and Zientsin and so drop that other shoe?
12 July 1938, New York (NY) Times, pg. 18:
A sound meter will no doubt register every decibel of a man dropping his shoe on the floor overhead at midnight. But a meter will not lie awake and twitch, waiting for the man to drop his other shoe.
15 February 1943, New York (NY) World-Telegram, pg. 14, cols. 4-6 editorial cartoon:
“Waiting for That Other Shoe to Drop!”
(Adolf Hitler is on the floor. Crushing him is a shoe, “RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE.” Coming through a crack in the ceiling is the other shoe, “ALLIED INVASION.” Hitler’s ally thinks fast and says, “MAYBE I BETTER SCRAM!”—ed.)
New York (NY) Times
“The Opinionator” blog by Tobin Harshaw and Chris Suellentrop
December 16, 2008, 9:46 am
Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
By Chris Suellentrop
Free the shoe-thrower: An editorial in The Wall Street Journal embraces Muntader al-Zaidi for hurling his shoes at President Bush. “Congratulations, Iraq: You really are a free country,” the editorial states.
New York City • Banking/Finance/Insurance • (1) Comments • Wednesday, December 17, 2008 • Permalink