Waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop

中国日报网 2017-08-15 10:46



Waiting for the proverbial shoe to dropReader question:

Please explain “proverbial shoe” in this passage:

My father died when I was four and my grandfather died six months later. Phone calls in the middle of the night always meant someone was sick, dying, or dead. Maybe because of this I am always expecting the worst or for the proverbial shoe to drop.

My comments:

The other proverbial shoe, that is.

The full expression is: waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In our example, proverbial means it’s not to be taken literally.

Taken literally, “waiting for the other shoe to drop” describes a supposedly commonplace experience of the old days, when people were crowded in department houses that were not well insulated for sound, to say the least.

Certainly I’ve heard of a version of this waiting-for-the-other-shoe story. It goes, roughly, as follows:

A young clerk who always comes back home from late, around midnight, has a habit of throwing his boots hard down on the floor before he climbs into bed. Exhausted from work, the clerk then goes right into slumber. But the sound of the two heavy boots dropping on the floor gets on the nerves of an old man living in a room right below. To the nervous old man, the two shoes dropping sound no less than two bomb shots. Boom! Boom!

The long and short of it is, it comes to a point that every night, the old man lies in bed wide awake waiting for the young man to drop both of his shoes before he can try to get some sleep, if any.

This night, however, the second booming noise never came.

As it turns out, that night, the young man is about to drop his second shoe before he suddenly comes to his senses, realizing that the noise he make may be too much for his neighbors. Ergo, he proceeds to put the second shoe ever so gently on the floor, without causing, like, a whisper.

Early the next morning, barely at dawn break and way before sunup, the young man is awakened by loud knocking noises from the door. It is the old man from downstairs. When the young man opens the door, the old man asks, rather angrily: “What went wrong? What happened to you last night?

“Every night, I hear two sounds but last night I heard one sound and never the second. In waiting for the other shoe to drop, I never had a wink!”

Well, that’s what I used to hear regarding the story about the other shoe. I’ve heard different versions but they are all the same, people wait for the other shoe to drop. Presumably they have to wait for the other shoe to drop before they can get on with their lives. And the other shoe, the other shoe to drop, or the proverbial shoe, or the other proverbial shoe becomes synonymous with something that’s inevitable to happen.

Something bad, especially.

All right, let’s read a few more media examples to hammer the point firmly home:

1. Back in 2003, when the Supreme Court struck down all state laws against homosexuality, Justice Kennedy also wrote the majority opinion. That opinion, in the case Lawrence v. Texas, set the stage for today’s majority opinion authored by the same justice. In 2003, Justice Kennedy argued that laws restricting homosexual acts and relationships were driven by moral animus against homosexuals and homosexuality. He acknowledged that this moral judgment is both venerable and deeply rooted in the moral traditions of Western civilization, but he condemned such laws and, writing for the majority, struck them down. He employed the very same logic today in striking down DOMA.

Back in 2003, Justice Antonin Scalia issued a scathing dissent to Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion: “Today’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as a formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is ‘no legitimate state interest’ for purposes of proscribing that conduct … what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples?”

Justice Kennedy insisted in 2003 that the Lawrence decision did not involve homosexual marriage and did not imply any necessary recognition of same-sex unions. In response, Scalia retorted: “This case ‘does not involve’ the issue of same-sex marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court.” He concluded: “Many will hope that, as this Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.”

As Justice Kennedy himself made abundantly clear today, Justice Scalia was right ten years ago. Justice Kennedy’s protestations that the Lawrence decision did not involve same-sex marriage were wrong. It is hard to avoid the moral conclusion that he was then both intellectually dishonest and disingenuous. The decision handed down today proves Justice Scalia to have been a prophet. He told the truth, and Justice Kennedy, in his own words, has proved Scalia to have been right.

In an equally scathing dissent handed down in the DOMA case today, Scalia called the decision “jaw-dropping.” He castigated the Court’s majority for usurping the democratic process and for condemning all opposition to same-sex unions as “irrational and hateful.”

Even though the Court did not rule today that all states must legally recognize and allow for same-sex marriages, the handwriting is on the wall. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion implicitly invites any citizen who resides in a state that does not allow for same-sex marriage to claim that his or her constitutional rights are violated on the basis of the Court’s opinion handed down today. You can count on a challenge of this form arising in short order.

As Justice Scalia noted in his dissent today, “As far as this Court is concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of listening and waiting for the other shoe.”

The Court’s majority did not want to pay the political price that a decision as immediately sweeping as Roe v. Wade would have cost. Instead, the majority decided to send a clear signal that such a case will now be well received. It struck down DOMA by employing a logic that, as Scalia noted, cannot stop with the striking down of DOMA. It can only stop with the full legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states by judicial fiat.

But wait, for there are more shoes to drop. In his opinion today, remember that Justice Kennedy wrote these crucial words: “The history of DOMA’s enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages, a dignity conferred by the States in the exercise of their sovereign power, was more than an incidental effect of the federal statute. It was its essence.”

What about laws against polygamy? Was Justice Kennedy even aware of just how sweeping this statement would be? Laws against polygamy were explicitly passed in order to “interfere” with the “equal dignity” of multiple-spousal marriages. Justice Kennedy’s opinion, now the Court’s decision, destroys any legal argument against polygamy.

- “Waiting for the Other Shoe” — The Supreme Court Rules on Same-Sex Marriage, AlbertMohler.com, June 26, 2013.

2. On Friday, a former president – and hero for many people in Brazil – was charged with corruption. On the same day, a new rapid-transit train collided with a bus, a police helicopter crashed at the government palace, gunfire held a Rio neighborhood under siege, a fire broke out in the Olympic Village, and a beloved singer – Gilberto Gil – was hospitalized. It was indeed, a very bad day.

And, spoiler alert: it won’t be the last bad day.

If pattern keeps, there is no indication the deluge of bad news stories out of Rio will halt any time soon.

If you’re a foreigner living in Rio, there’s a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop: for some bridge to collapse or some roof to cave in or worse. Living with that undercurrent of fear is par for the course in many foreigners’ lives in Brazil, and it is what drives many expats – who once fell in love with the beach or a girl named Juliana – away in the end.

If you’re a Brazilian living in Rio, you’ve probably already developed the most finely-tuned Brazilian skill: enjoying life to the fullest in spite of troubles. You know the bad news better than anyone, but you push it away and do your best to not let it bring you down. You shake it off.

But there is good news to be had amidst the bad. And it’s the good news we need most these days.

The world is about to be given the chance to watch the world’s strongest, fastest, most athletically talented humans put on a show for our entertainment and their personal glory. Amid the flashy news of fires at the Athletes Village and extinguished Olympic torches, there are some personal stories that stand out as testaments to the beauty of sport.

Read about Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refugee who, not long ago, was swimming for her life while adrift in the Aegean Sea and will now be swimming for a medal.

Read about Ibtihaj Muhammed, the fencer about to make history as the first Muslim athlete on Team USA, in a sport where she can still wear the hijab that honors her religion.

Read about Tsegai Tewelde, the Eritrean goat herder running with landmine shrapnel in his chest.

Read about Simone Biles, the young American gymnast pushing her sport to never-before-seen athletic levels, and who, at 19, already has a new skill named after her.

Reading these stories reminds us why sport seems to carry with it a magical, mystical aura, how it can inspire chills and tears, and shows us all the shades of strength possible in humans.

And once you’ve read those stories, remember that a new batch of perhaps even more mind-bogglingly inspiring stories are on their way, as the Paralympic Games kick off next month. Amid everything, take a moment to let the athletes remain in the center.

- The Good News From Brazil, Forbes.com, July 30, 2016.

3. Raw is a good look for Brad Pitt.

While we're fairly used to female stars turning the hindsight light inward in order to publicly purge the demons of a failed relationship, fewer and far between are the moments when a man willingly steps up and flays himself for all to savor.

And Pitt didn’t have to do that. All signs pointed to him having built up enough of a pre-split reputation, both among his Hollywood peers and his fans, that even the zero-to-100 breakdown of his marriage to Angelina Jolie and the custody issues that ensued would only be a temporary blip in the court of public opinion.

His warm reception at the Golden Globes, the ovation that even the star himself looked surprised by, was an indicator back in January that no one was buying the idea of Brad-as-villain, as someone who was “terrified” for the truth to come out, as Jolie’s court documents claimed.

Jolie was the first to publicly address their divorce back in February, when she and Pitt were actually far further along on the road to rapprochement than it seemed, but Jolie’s comments had all the hallmarks of a most reluctant return to the spotlight.

Which is entirely understandable, of course. She wanted to talk about her latest directorial effort, the Cambodian-set First They Killed My Father, which son Maddox also worked on with her, and it would have been a glaring omission had she forbid the BBC or ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos from asking about her divorce.


But despite his recent anger at Jolie for the initially public airing of their dirty laundry, even if it was confined to the hopelessly vague terms of legalese (“He was furious with her in a way he has never been furious before,” a source told E! News), Pitt noticeably did not take the opportunity with GQ to tell an “it takes two to tango” story.

Or not on the record, anyway.

Yet this could have been that time, Pitt’s version of ex Jennifer Aniston's infamous “sensitivity chip missing” post-split analysis of him.

Instead, Brad willingly took the blame for the implosion of Brangelina, calling the tortuous road he’s traveled since September “self-inflicted.”

Not that anyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop as far as Angelina’s parenting went, the 41-year-old Oscar winner’s devotion to her family never being in doubt for one second since she adopted Maddox in 2002 and rerouted her famously alluring intensity toward motherhood. But this interview could have been a more obstinate denial of wrongdoing on Pitt’s part.

Yet it was quite the opposite. Throwing caution to the wind—and simultaneously capitalizing on 30 years of good will built up in Hollywood—Brad went for it, translating what he’s gleaned from his newfound love of therapy into a painfully self-aware, self-deprecating, oft-poetic (building a fire “makes me feel life”) and at times rambling discourse on a charmed life that veered off course and what he’s doing to right the ship.

The spilling of his guts also makes for a fairly humorous juxtaposition with the accompanying photo shoot (it’s a style magazine, after all), including a pic of Pitt partially buried in the sand wearing a $240 Rick Owens tank top and $790 Bottega Veneta pants.

And we have no doubt that the humor is not lost on Brad Pitt, the guy who grew up surrounded by cornfields in Missouri who became one of the most famous humans on the planet and is now starting over in a way at 53.

- Why Brad Pitt Won the Jolie-Pitt War by Throwing Himself on His Sword, EOnline.com, May 4, 2017.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)



















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