It has most certainly happened to all of us at least once: Two people walking along the same narrow pathway in opposite directions walk into each other.

There is room for both to pass each other, but person A shifts to their left to avoid B, and B shifts to their right (i.e., A's left) in order to do the same thing, so they're still on a collision course.

They both realize the mistake and they both try to correct it by moving to the opposite side they did before, so the problem persists.

Rinse and repeat 3 or 4 times until one of the parties realizes: "I'll stick to the left (or right) no matter what, and let him pick the other side!", in a sort of perverse human feedback loop.

Is there a word or idiom to describe this situation?


1 Answer 1


That's something I've always known as the sidewalk shuffle:

the awkward dance that results when two people approach each other from opposite directions, each attempts to move out of the other's way, and both end up moving in the same direction. Often followed by further ungainly movement, apologies, and awkward laughter.

[Urban Dictionary]

  • A google search gives several references besides your Urban Dictionary link, so it must be legit. Here, have your tick! (walks towards you by the left) Feb 5, 2016 at 8:40
  • All the other links I saw seemed to point to card tricks, lol. Oh well, no shuffling here, coz I go left too.
    – mcalex
    Feb 5, 2016 at 8:41
  • There was a rage comic. Also, this: octopuspie.com/2012-04-13/… Feb 5, 2016 at 8:41
  • 1
    Hi, mcalex. Linking just a website is not encouraged in this community as your link can become invalid if the linked page changes. I edited your post and please see if it is OK and try to follow the format.
    – user140086
    Feb 5, 2016 at 9:20
  • 2
    Not sure if Urban dictionary is a valid enough dictionary to be referenced here for answers
    – Mohit
    Feb 5, 2016 at 10:27

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