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Re: 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going"

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 20, 2005

In Reply to: Re: 'When the going gets tough, the going gets rough" posted by Bob on July 19, 2005

: : Can anyone tell me what is the meaning of the phrase 'When the going gets tough, the going gets rough"?

: The cliché is 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going," endlessly quoted by football coaches, sales managers, and other neanderthal motivators. It's meant as a slogan to perform by - when situations are difficult, strong people rise to the occasion.

: Your quote 'When the going gets tough, the going gets rough" seems like it comes from a realist, bored with that empty platitude. It introduces a cynical truth: when difficulties arrive, life becomes difficult. Not the sort of sentiment for a poster to cheer on the troops, but ....

Bob's right, but I'm surprised he didn't mention John Mitchell, President Nixon's Attorney General. He famously repeated the phrase, somewhat in the manner of the football coach as per Bob. In the climate of the time it was perfectly natural for people to jeer Mitchell and the Administration with their own version of the phrase, of which one was: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going--as far away as possible." More recently a version I sort of like says, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going--shopping."

No one has yet inquired, but have you heard of the "Martha Mitchell effect"? She was John Mitchell's wife, and revealed to her psychiatrist that she thought suspicious things were going on in the White House. She was diagnosed as delusional. Make of this what you will, but to an American it makes plenty. --SS