Reporters and headline writers love hackneyed sayings and clichés. Creative writers — poets, novelists, playwrights — are the opposite. They consider such writing, “sloppy.”
On August 31, the Free Press used several well-worn expressions about shoes. The headline, “Shoe on the other foot now,” was followed by, “If the shoe fits.” A little later, we got, “A shoe in the door.”
All these were inspired by a home invader who lost a shoe while trying to get into a house.
“Shoe” turns up in several other expressions, for example, on a shoestring, to quake in one’s shoes, shoes of the fisherman, among others.
A shoe on the other foot suggests something opposite has occurred; places are changed. We can’t date this saying but, until the 19th century, shoes and boots weren’t fashioned specifically for left or right feet. Any shoe went on either foot.
If the shoe fits, wear it (if something applies to you, accept it) is an adaptation of, “If the cap fits, wear it.” This 1705 English saying was coined by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). If the shoe fits is an Americanization first heard some 70 years later.
To get a shoe in the door is a re-wording of “foot in the door.” If you get a foot in the door, you’re well-positioned for future action. The saying arises from the idea of a door-to-door salesman wedging his foot into a door opening to prevent it slamming in his face. Coined in the U.S., the saying dates to about 1856.
People who operate on a shoestring, manage with almost no money. An English expression, it originated about 1860.
To quake in one’s shoes, means to shake from fear; to be afraid. The original version (late 1800s) was, “to shake in one’s shoes.” But the idea is more ancient still. Chaucer (1343-1400) wrote of “quaking like an aspen leaf.”
The Shoes of the Fisherman, a 1963 book about a Slavic pope, by Australian writer, Morris L. West (1916-1999), was written 15 years before the election of Polish Pope, John Paul II. The title evokes the traditional belief that the first pope, Peter, was a fisherman. For centuries, new popes are said to, “step into the shoes of the fisherman,” meaning they follow in St. Peter’s footsteps.
The shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot is an English proverb from about 1600. Sometimes worded, the shoemaker’s children have no shoes, it means that skilled workers’ families are always the last to benefit from that skill.
To wait for a dead man’s shoes is very old, first recorded in 1546. It means to wait for someone to die so you can take his place or get an inheritance. And if you represent someone, say as spokesman, you’re acting in his shoes.
Goody two-shoes, from a 1765 children’s story by Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), mean, “too good to be true.”
Shoe originated in the Old Teutonic skohoz, and entered Old English as scoh. Today, shoe is pluralized shoes. The archaic plural, shoon, is sometimes still used by poets.