wait for the other shoe to drop

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A common experience of tenement living and other similar style housing in New York City (and other cities) during the manufacturing boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. Apartments were built similar in design with one's bedroom under another's. Thus, it was normal to hear a neighbor removing shoes and hearing them hit the floor above. As one shoe made a sound hitting the floor, the expectation for the other shoe to make a similar sound was created.


wait for the other shoe to drop

  1. (idiomatic) To defer action or decision until another matter is finished or resolved.
  2. (idiomatic) To await a seemingly inevitable event, especially one that is not desirable.
    • 1969, "Golf: The Confidence Man," Time, 29 Aug.:
      After the tournament, Player admitted that all through the final round he had been nervously waiting for more trouble. "It was like waiting for the other shoe to drop."