Like an old shoe

“How was your trip to Darjeeling? Did you stay in the same hotel or did you try…?”

“I’ve been staying in the same hotel for three years now. It may be small, but as far as I’m concerned, it is as comfortable as an old shoe. Why would I stay in a new one?”

“As comfortable as an old shoe? Does it mean to feel very comfortable?”

“That’s right! In this case, what I’m suggesting is that I feel very comfortable in the hotel because I’m familiar with it.”

“And since you’ve stayed in the hotel for three years, you feel very much at home.”

“Even though it is not fancy, I feel very comfortable there. This old motorcycle might not look like much. But Manish says that It is comfortable as an old shoe to drive around in.”

“How about this example? Whenever I go to Chennai, I stay in my aunt’s old house. It is as comfortable as an old shoe.”

“Sounds good. Tell me, did you….”

“So, this hotel in Darjeeling, where exactly is it located?”

“It is a little away from the town. The good thing is that It is not shoehorned between buildings. There’s nothing next to…”

“Shoehorned? Isn’t a shoehorn what some people use when they are putting on their shoes? I remember my grandfather always used one when he put his shoes on.”

“That’s right! The word ‘shoehorn’ can be used as a verb as well. When you say that something has been ‘shoehorned’, what you are suggesting is that it has been squeezed in between two things.”

“In other words, It is been sandwiched between two things. It is a very tight fit.”

“Exactly! Fifteen motorcycles had been shoehorned into the small garage.”

“The Club is planning to shoehorn a tennis court between the swimming pool and the cricket ground.”

“Due to financial reasons, four of the five schools have been closed. The Government is planning to shoehorn all students into one site.”

“That sounds terrible. Will you be going to the party this evening?”

“The party’s been postponed to next week. There’s been no power in our office building since yesterday.”

“No power? And that too in this weather? That’s terrible! It must be like an oven inside the building.”

“It certainly is. It is so hot that we could….”

Insufficient funds

“But why do you have to postpone the party? You usually have it in some fancy hotel, don’t you? I am sure they have power.”

“I am sure they do. Let’s just say we’re operating on a shoestring budget this year.”

“What’s with you and the word ‘shoe’ today? What does ‘shoestring budget’ mean?”

“When you say that something is being run on a shoestring budget, what you are suggesting is that you have very little money to spend. You have just enough to meet the needs.”

“In other words, your finances are very limited. It is barely adequate. How about this example? Many independent film producers manage to make excellent films on a shoestring budget.”

“That’s an excellent example. The word ‘shoestring’ is mostly used in American English to refer to one’s shoelace. The expression ‘on a shoestring budget’ is mostly limited to informal contexts. Anand visited quite a few countries on a shoestring budget.”

“The Department of Health in our country has always had to operate on a shoestring budget.”

“Sad, but true.”


“Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life.” Unknown

The writer teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. [email protected]

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