the penny dropped vs the other shoe dropped

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Artrella, Oct 21, 2004.

  1. Artrella Banned

    Hello people! Has the first phrase the same meaning as the second one?

    (UK informal) If you say that the penny (has) dropped, you mean that you or someone else suddenly understands or becomes aware of something that you or they did not know about before.
    She looked confused for a moment, then suddenly the penny dropped and she burst out laughing.

    I was also told that this phrase -which apparently is British- has its equivalent in American in the phrase "The other shoe dropped/ drop the other shoe". But in checking the origin of the second phrase, I found that both have different meanings, or I am confused?

    Thank you, Art. :confused:
  2. Focalist Senior Member

    European Union, English
    I'm not all that familiar with the phrases "then the other shoe dropped" or "waiting for the other shoe to drop", as they are essentially American -- but as I understand it the first means "then what was bound to happen ...happened", the second corresponds to "waiting for the inevitable next event".

    The image comes from hearing someone undressing in a room above. There is a "clunk" as the first discarded shoe hits the floor... the "audience" then waits for the second shoe to follow.


    PS: Have just done a quick search on the net and come up with this -- which gives a fuller account.
  3. dave

    dave Senior Member

    UK - English
    Evening Art.

    From a purely Brit perspective, the penny dropped is in very common use over here and means exactly as you have described (n.b. don´t confuse it with the euphemism to spend a penny!).

    I have never in my life heard the other shoe dropped, and I have sat through thousands of hours of US TV and films! I´m sure one of our stateside colleagues will be along in a minute to give you a more useful answer.

  4. Artrella Banned


    Teacher said that you can say "the penny..." or "sth click" to mean sudden understanding... eg understanding a punchline. Sb told me that this same idea is expressed in American by using "The other shoe..."

    Here at home, I have a Dictionary of Catch Phrases, by Eric Partridge and it reads:
    " drop the other shoe! 'well, go ahead and say the next obvious thing!'
    Both Brit. and US, buy much commoner in the former, it covers most of 20th century, although rarely heard since the 1930s. It arose from a story about a lodging-house"

    A friend of mine sent me these sites -which I consulted- and I cannot see the similarity between both things.

    Bye Art :cool: Thanks F and D!!!!!!!!!!
  5. Focalist Senior Member

    European Union, English
  6. Sharon

    Sharon Senior Member

    United States, English
    The expression is used to show the suspense, the anticipatory waiting...I think it could be used in the sense of the joketeller waiting for someone to "get" a joke.
    I have a friend that absolutely does not get puns. Since my family is full of punny people, I love them. When we became friends, she always thought I was teasing her, until she realized that I can't resist, and it's all in good pun. So I spend a lot of time waiting for the other shoe to drop, hoping maybe it will clunk her in the head. She has learned to think my words over, especially when I have that maniacal gleam in my eye, and I am eagerly watching her to see if she catches it.
    One time we got on a subject brimming with opportunity, and I rapid-fired puns at her, hoping one of them would sink in. pun in ten did. :rolleyes:
  7. Artrella Banned

    PS: Did you notice that I already posted your third URL earlier in this thread?[/QUOTE]

    yes, Focalist I've noticed it but sent them all the same, just as my friend sent them to me, just in case... :p I know you sent it first, don't be jealous! :p Art
  8. Focalist Senior Member

    European Union, English
    'S all right, A.
    It was just that I wonder sometimes if people always notice these mini-links.

  9. Artrella Banned

    F your mini links are beautiful and very useful? Question... how do you do that? Will you reveal the secret? I'm a complete ignoramus as regards this modern things!!!!!! Bye Art ;)
  10. Focalist Senior Member

    European Union, English
    When you are writing your post and reach the point where you want to insert a "hot link" just click on the icon that looks like "the globe + two links of a chain" (it's just underneath the [ of "[Color]".

    You will be invited
    1: to "Enter the text to be displayed for the link" (e.g. this link / click here / or whatever words you want),
    2: to enter the URL of your link (i.e., the address beginning http://).

    -- For step 2, above, it's easiest to have the URL "up your sleeve" and ready to paste in. Before you start, copy it from the address bar of the page you are linking to by left-clicking on it to highlight it, then pressing Control+C to copy it. When asked for it at step 2 you can then paste it in by simply pressing Control+V.
    -- Note that at step 2 the "http://" is already there, so if your doing a "copy-and-paste", delete it first with the <-- arrow; otherwise you'll end up with "http://" twice.

    By trying to cover everything step-by-step, I've made it all look very complicated, but, believe me, it isn't really! :)

    Try it out. You can use "Preview Post" to see if your link works before you send it.

  11. BrianP New Member

    Humbly, I would also submitt that the expression has a connotation of the negative, ie, the next bad thing to happen.

    A humorous example: While in the highlands of Vietnam I received a letter from my lady love. It began, "Dear John". As my name was not John, I read on, my heart sinking, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    In the link above the refrence to a hotel room makes total sense.

    I'd say, if I had to say anything, an anticipated subsequent negative event?

    The expression here, (USA) is indeed common.

    comments welcome. Like so much that is "native" I never thought about the meaning, have interpreted it thusly about as long as I have known the meaning of the word "no".
  12. athene_circe New Member

    As a Canadian who is quite familiar with both expressions begin used, I would have to agree with those who say they mean different things. i think that their meaning is quite clear in the difference between the two metaphors.

    'waiting for the other shoe to drop' can apply to any situation in which someone is waiting for something. it may be someone who has taken some action that is bound to have repercussions and they are waiting for the inevitable response. it doesn't necessarily imply that the impending event is negative; just inevitable.

    'waiting for the penny to drop' implies that someone is missing some level of understanding that is available to others. they are not comprehending something and then, suddenly, the penny drops and the ripples spread outward leading to clarity.

    i grant you the difference is a bit of a subtle one, but definitely there.
  13. liliput

    liliput Senior Member

    U.K. English
    It's not completely unknown in the UK, I've certainly heard the expression "wait for the other shoe to drop" meaning to wait for something bad to happen.

    Obviously this is not the same as "waiting for the penny to drop" which is waiting for somebody to comprehend something.
  14. natkretep

    natkretep Moderato con anima (English Only)

    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I would use 'the penny dropped' but have not heard of 'the other shoe dropped'.

    In fact, yesterday I wrote to someone to say, 'I'm so thick - but the penny has dropped' in a message to an American (who I think has lived in the UK before), but his response indicated puzzlement.
  15. James Blond New Member

    I think Athene Circe has come the closest to what I understand the expressions to mean.

    There is very certainly a difference between the two. Though the two CAN mean something quite similar, they don't necessarily. "The penny dropped" refers to a situation in which something is quite unclear and confusing....and then, the penny dropped, and everything was understood, but this clarity doesn't have to reveal something negative.

    The other shoe dropping is used in much more specific circumstances, as per the sample letter above, but I think "the other shoe" is most often negative. Either A) One hears a bit of news that doesn't augur well, and one inevitably "waits for the other shoe to drop," i.e. the potentially bad news to become truly bad news. Or, B) One hears a bit of news that DOES augur well, but one skeptically "waits for the other shoe to drop," i.e., to discover that the potentially good news is covering up actually bad news. E.g., He told me, "You're getting a promotion!," and then the other shoe dropped -- "You'll be doing the work of two people now."

    It bears noting that there doesn't HAVE to be another "shoe" -- that one can FEEL like one is "waiting for the other shoe to drop," but the first bit of news is sometimes actually all there is. For example, "When he told me what had happened, I stood there waiting for the other shoe to drop, but apparently I won't be affected after all."
  16. DutchieHfx New Member

    I agree with James Bond, and Liliput's summary. Thank you!

    Lately I have been using the expression "the penny dropped" and encountered blank (Canadian) looks.
    This happens sometimes, but mostly when I used the wrong language.
    The expression came to mind when a (known) intellectual concept connected with a concrete situation,
    when "my head connected with my gut" - a "light bulb moment".

    Now I'm stumped where I may have picked up this expression:
    I never lived in the UK, and I don't think I learned it in HS English class!
    I can only think of having read it, somewhere, sometime!
  17. cellmaker New Member

    English - American

    I would have to agree with BrianP, above, that Americans (maybe not Canadians?) use shoe-dropping almost exclusively in negative circumstances. It has a sort of ominous quality to it. Granted, the person saying it may not find the situation negative for him or her, but for someone else, which can add an element of schadenfreude. For example, if a colleague who may not be very popular has committed a grave error, the whole office may be waiting for the boss's reaction. "And then the other shoe dropped" might be said with a kind of relish, but the situation for the hapless worker is indeed bad.

    Perhaps others have a different perspective.
  18. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I don't believe I've ever heard the other shoe dropped, either.

    Which reminds me of one of my favourite cartoons, which shows two bedrooms, one above the other. The person in the lower room is lying in bed while the one upstairs is getting ready for bed. Upstairs takes off a shoe and drops it on the floor; Downstairs sits up, looking at the ceiling; Upstairs drops the other shoe; Downstairs smiles as both lie down - and then Upstairs reaches down, picks up a shoe, drops it again, and then goes to sleep, leaving Downstairs sitting up in bed waiting....
  19. DutchieHfx New Member

    oooooooooh Sharon, you're good!
    I know it's a very old post, but language defies human aging concepts . . .
  20. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    As an AE speaker I have only heard the quote in movies made before I was born,so the 1930 looks about right.
  21. hila11 New Member

    Supporting some of the other responses here, we (i.e., people I know in the U.S.) use "waiting for the other shoe to drop" and "the other shoe dropped" to refer to expecting -- and waiting for something negative (never positive) to happen. For example, "When George came over and said we needed to talk, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop; but it never did."

    My understanding and use of the term "the penny dropped" is as the others mentioned above, meaning that the person finally understood something. Interestingly, though (IMHO!) is that I first learned the expression in Hebrew: In Hebrew there's an expression, "nafal ha'asimon." An "asimon" was an old-fashioned payphone token. It's been a while since I used one, but if I remember correctly, after you put the asimon into the payphone, it would go down part-way and then you could talk until it dropped to the bottom. When it dropped ("nafal" means "fell down"), you could hear it clink. I was very amused when I eventually heard the expression used in English (in the US). Perhaps the origin is British, though -- the British Mandate led to several Britishisms being adopted by Hebrew-speakers.

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