"When the going gets tough, "

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Apr 12 17:27:27 UTC 2013

On Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 11:44 AM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
> "the tough get going". This proverb figures in a posting on a Zippy cartoon,
> here:
>   http://arnoldzwicky.wordpress.com/2013/04/12/body-language-and-lithuanians/
> in that posting, i quote Wikipedia speculations about the source.  i can't at
> the moment locate my copy of the Dictionary of Modern Proverbs, so i don't
> know if it's in there.  anyone have the skinny on the proverb?

DMP's earliest cites attribute it to Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy (not Knute
Rockne or Joe Kennedy):

1954 Charleston [WV] Daily Mail 4 May: “Frank Leahy, now an actor, is back
coaching football in front of a camera and the material is as good as it used
to be at Notre Dame. . . . He also inserted his own personal football motto
into the dialogue: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’”

1956 Los Angeles Times 24 Aug.: “Former Notre Dame Coach Frank Leahy in
seconding Ike’s nomination stirred the audience with a motto for football and
politics: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’”


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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