7 Foot Idioms and Their Interesting Origins

Do you ever think about certain phrases and wonder why we say them or what they even mean? Language is a funny thing, and it’s even more interesting when you dig into the origin of certain idioms and adages. If you’ve ever wondered about particular foot-related phrases, then you’ve come to the right place. Check out these 7 podiatric expressions and their origins:

Achilles Heel

If you know anything about Greek mythology, you probably know that Achilles was the greatest of all the warriors in the Trojan War. He was practically untouchable except for one little weakness – his heel. His mother, Thetis, had dipped him in the River Styx to make him invincible. Unfortunately for Achilles, Thetis held him by his heel, and since the water didn’t reach it, it became his weak spot. In fact, he eventually died when an arrow struck him in the heel. So, one’s Achilles heel is (figuratively) a person’s weakness!

Cold Feet

This phrase, which indicates having doubts or losing nerve regarding a certain situation, has an uncertain etymology. Some claim that it originates from the battlefield when soldiers who had frozen feet couldn’t rush into battle. Others point to a particular scene in a 19th century German novel, of all things. In the scene, a poker player bows out of a game before losing, claiming to have cold feet and being unable to concentrate!

Put a Sock in It

If your parents or teachers ever aimed this phrase at you, they were telling you to be quiet. But why a sock? Back in the late 19th century when people would listen to music on record players or gramophones, they lacked a way to control the volume. The solution to quieting the music lay in stuffing woolen socks down the horns of these devices!

Foot the Bill

Should you be the one to “foot the bill,” then you’re the one who will be covering the expense, which is typically a hefty sum. But where did this idiom come from? In times past, footing the bill simply meant adding up the prices of a variety of items to determine the final cost. This lump sum would appear at bottom of the bill (i.e. the foot).

Get off on the Wrong Foot

This phrase, which means to begin a project or relationship badly, has two possible origins! One lends itself toward the military and soldiers marching in step. The other is steeped in superstition. The “wrong foot” to many people long ago in several cultures was the left foot, mostly because the left was seen as “evil” (in Latin, “sinistral” means left-handed or left-footed). So to get off on the “wrong foot” would be to invite misfortune into your life. Sorry to all you lefties out there!

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

Picture this: you’re living in a New York apartment building in the late 19th century. The neighbor above you has just come home, and, as always, you hear him taking off his shoes. The “thunk,” followed shortly by another identical “thunk” of the remaining shoe, reverberates off the ceiling. When you’re “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” you are waiting for something inevitable to happen. Think of it in today’s terms like waiting for the bass to drop, and you can kind of feel that anxious anticipation that New Yorkers experienced centuries ago!

Foot in the Door

If you’ve got your foot in the door, it means you have a chance to do something that could lead to future opportunities such as a new job. This handy phrase originates from a description of someone literally sticking their foot past the threshold of a home or property, impeding the door from closing so the conversation can continue. Fortunately, this is now used in a figurative sense. If it were used literally, we’d have a lot more hurt feet on our hands! Speaking of foot injuries, be sure to come see the experienced doctors at The Foot And Ankle Center if you’re suffering from heel pain, bunions, or other podiatric conditions. We’re happy to treat you at one of our six locations! Call us today at (314) 487-9300 to schedule your appointment with us!