wait for the other shoe to drop

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A common experience of tenement living in apartment-style housing in New York City and other large cities during the manufacturing boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Apartments were built with very similar designs, with the bedrooms located directly above and underneath one another. Thus, it was normal to hear a neighbor removing their shoes in the apartment above. As one shoe made a sound hitting the floor, the expectation for the other shoe to make a similar disturbance was created.


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wait for the other shoe to drop (third-person singular simple present waits for the other shoe to drop, present participle waiting for the other shoe to drop, simple past and past participle waited 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 August 29, “Golf: The Confidence Man”, in Time:
      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."