When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

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When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by onebutterfly » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:36 am

I am looking for the origin of the phrase
"When in trouble, when in doubt: run in circles, scream and shout"
After an extensive google search - I am imploring those more
knowledgable than myself for help.
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When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by russcable » Fri Oct 27, 2006 3:58 am

Robert Heinlein used "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout" in his 1973 book "Time Enough for Love" so it's at least that old.
Laurence J Peter, author of 1968's "The Peter Principle" is credited with "When in doubt or in danger, run in circles, scream and shout." but it never says which of his many books that this is from.
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When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Candyman » Sat Nov 03, 2007 9:49 pm

onebutterfly wrote: I am looking for the origin of the phrase
"When in trouble, when in doubt: run in circles, scream and shout"
After an extensive google search - I am imploring those more
knowledgable than myself for help.
I don't have a copy of the book handy but I know it was used in the book Mutiny on the Bounty. When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles scream and shout.
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When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Shelley » Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:32 am

russcable wrote: Laurence J Peter, author of 1968's "The Peter Principle" is credited with "When in doubt or in danger, run in circles, scream and shout." . . .
That version doesn't rhyme, which makes me think Mr. Peter has misquoted a previous, more clever rhyming version. Or, if Mr. Peter did invent it, he got it wrong.
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When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Nov 04, 2007 12:22 pm

Maybe he had been promoted one level beyond his ability.
There were dumb people then, too.
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When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Nov 04, 2007 5:56 pm

O.B. et al, WHEN IN DANGER, WHEN IN DOUBT, RUN IN CIRCLES, SCREAM AND SHOUT and its variations appear to have begun as a U.S. military (Navy and Army) expression. Herman Wouk (see 1951 quote below) called it an ‘ancient adage,’ while most others called it an ‘old saying/motto/maxim/adage.’ But from the evidence below, I would say that the expression is not all that old and that it probably came into existence during WW II.

It is a sarcastic expression that says if you are in danger or trouble or have doubts as what to do, and don’t have a clue how to properly handle a bad situation or crisis, just start making a show of a lot of activity and noise to appear proactive – using bluster as a cover for indecision and incompetence – and maybe folks won’t notice that you really don’t know what you are doing.
<1942 “The OCD [[Office of Civilian Defense]] began ringing the firebell at night and shouted all Americans would be bombed out of their beds if they didn’t immediately abandon apathy and begin to run in circles, scream, and shout . . .”—‘Chronicle Telegram’ (Elyria, Ohio), 26 October, page 2>

<1948 “The old Army War College used to have a football team whose slogan was ‘When in trouble when in doubt run in circles scream and shout.’ This slogan could be applied to our political leaders in Washington.”—‘Valley Morning Star’ (Harlingen, Texas), 9 May>

<1951 “To Willie’s eye it was a scene of confusion and panic. He surmised that the Caine crew were unfitted for their jobs, and were fulfilling the ancient adage: When in danger or in doubt, / Run in circles, scream and shout.”—‘The Caine Mutiny’ by Herman Wouk, page 110>

<1962 “One is reminded of the old adage ‘When in danger / When in doubt / Run in circles /Scream and shout.’”—‘The American Journal of Nursing,’ Vol. 62, No. 5, May, page 110>

<1965 “The pompano at the Brazilian Court [[Hotel]], when it arrived was edible enough, but the service in the dining room was something else again. One guest was reminded of the old shipboard motto, ‘When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout,’ for that is precisely what that evening’s performance was like.”—‘New York Times,’ 7 February, page 14>

<1972 “There is an old saying, ‘When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout’, which brings us back to . . . the loud assertations that if an ‘outsider’ and black man . . . were not Commissioner of Correction and did not try to use his office to bring about some changes in the Commonwealth's prisons, none of this would have happened.”—‘Bay State Banner’ (Massachusetts), 10 August, Vol. VIII, Issue 47, page 1>

<1976 “Describing congressional response to the international turmoil of December 1973 [[oil crisis]], Carr sardonically recalls the old Navy saying: ‘When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.’”—‘Washington Post,’ 6 July, page B4>

<1981 “‘When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout,’ the Senator said, describing his party’s disarray.”—‘New York Times,’ 19 March, page B13>

<1983 “‘When in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout,’ said one correspondent, quoting the common saying. ‘That describes [your] series of articles. They say nothing, do nothing and propose nothing.’”— ‘Time Magazine,’ 7 March>

<1986 “‘We’re doing in Washington [[Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985]] what we’re doing in 43 state capitals. That’s all that’s happening, and yet it’s a reaction like during World War II when, aboard ship in the Navy, they’d say, ‘When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!’ But the senator [[Hollings]] is optimistic. ‘Oh, yeah, I think we’ll simmer down from the hysteria . . .If we [Congress] develop discipline, you’ll never hear of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings again.”—‘Washington Post,’ 22 January, page C1>

<1996 “Many managers, especially ones with little experience in dealing with ambiguity, disagreement, chaos, and uncertainty on a daily basis, approach conflict using WIDOID RICSAS (When In Danger, Or In Doubt, Run In Circles, Scream And Shout). While it's fun to watch this as an outsider, it is a terrible thing to be wrapped up in as a participant.”— Seven Lessons in Medical Management, in ‘Physician Executive,’ 1 February>

<2003 “The current leadership chaos in Washington reminds me of an old Naval maxim familiar to all present and former officers, to wit - ‘when in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.’ In the service (and business), the captain of the ship is responsible for the conduct and performance of his officers and this leadership responsibility cannot be delegated or ducked. The real question now is, ‘Who's in charge?’ We will soon find out if George W. Bush is really up to the task.”—‘The News & Record’ (Piedmont Triad, North Carolina), 18 October>

<2006 “In a crisis, it pays to have as few emotions as possible. Years ago in the Army, we had a maxim to cover such events. Like most soldier humor, it was pure sarcasm: ‘When in trouble or doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.’”—‘Charlotte Sun and Weekly Herald’ (Port Charlotte, Florida), 21 December>
(quotes are from archived sources)
________________________

Ken G – November 4, 2007
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Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by GregFinnegan » Mon May 17, 2010 4:08 am

Having found this thread via GOOGLE, I would like to add to Ken Greenwald's excellent posting, and in so doing push the origins of the phrase to before WWII--if the Annapolis alumni references (written post-war) are taken as stated from their authors' experiences there. I became interested in the phrase initially from Wouk's reference, but have found others from sources in hand because my late father, Capt. Joseph Finnegan, USN (ret.), was a member of the class of 1928 at the Naval Academy. Robt. A. Heinlein graduated in the class of 1929, so would have had roughly the same opportunity to have learned the phrase there.) Notice that the form cited by Kenneth Dodson is longer than other versions. He was a USNR officer in WWII.

Gregory Finnegan
Cambridge MA

My set of uses is:

To Willie's eye it was a scene of confusion and panic. He surmised that the Caine crew were unfitted for their jobs, and were fulfilling the ancient adage:

When in danger or in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.

p. 101. Herman Wouk: THE CAINE MUTINY. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc. 1951. (p. 120 of the 1954 Doubleday pb ed.)

*********

"Do you know the verse, MacDougall?" MacDougall nodded but Hawks was not looking at him; he was looking straight through the bulkhead again as he chanted:

When in question or in doubt,
Run in circles, scream and shout.
Give them hell and fire a gun;
Hoist the signal up: Well Done.

p. 440. Kenneth Dodson, AWAY ALL BOATS. Boston: Little, Brown. 1953 (©1954.) (p. 468, 1956 Bantem Books pb ed.)

*********

We all remember that little verse we learned at the Academy: "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, jump, and shout."

unpaged. Marcel Raymond "Jerry" Gerin. In OLD TALES RETOLD BY 28ERS: ANECDOTES FOR OUR FORTY FIFTH REUNION. Annapolis: USNA Class of 1928.
© 1973, Vincent Treanor. [Gerin was Capt, USN (Ret.) and Reference Librarian, Fairfax Co. (VA) Public Library.]

*********

I went on putting words up on the screen:

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

"When in Danger or in Doubt,
Run in Circles, Scream, and Shout."

"Does that help?" asked Gwen.

"Every time! Ask any old military man. …"

pp. 23-24.

The jet kept on firing.

("—run in circles, scream and shout!") I wiggled the firing button.

p. 108.
Robert A. Heinlein [USNA '29], THE CAT WHO WALKS THROUGH WALLS.
NY: Berkley Books, 1986. ©1985, G.P. Putnam's Sons.


*********

The sight reminded me of the old Mariner's rhyme:

When in danger or in doubt
Steam in circles scream and shout.

p. 87. General Merrill B. Twining, USMC (Ret.) "'An Unhandsome Quitting.'"
UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS, Nov. 1992, 118 (11): 83-87.


*********
[in re post 7-Dec. flyovers of Pearl Harbor by Japanese seaplanes.]

By happenstance, my wife, then a supervisor in the air defense command plotting room, was on duty on both occasions. She passed on the comic aspects (and the serious as well) of the spectacle of everybody following the Mongolian General Prudential Rule, “When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”

p. 217. BGen. Samuel Robert Shaw, USMC (Ret.), “Call Out the Marines.” Pp. 210-218 of Paul Stillwell, ed., AIR RAID: PEARL HARBOR! RECOLLECTIONS OF A DAY OF INFAMY. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1981. Reprinted from “Marine Barracks, Navy Yard Pearl Harbor,” SHIPMATE, Dec. 1973, pp.16-20. [USNA alumni magazine. Gen. Shaw was in the class of 1934.]

*********
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Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 17, 2010 4:23 am

GregFinnegan wrote:By happenstance, my wife, then a supervisor in the air defense command plotting room, was on duty on both occasions. She passed on the comic aspects (and the serious as well) of the spectacle of everybody following the Mongolian General Prudential Rule, “When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”
This citation raises the question of why the adage/rule is known as the 'Mongolian General Prudential Rule'. The syntax can be interpreted several different ways.
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Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon May 17, 2010 5:43 am

.. Greg .. well done mate !! .. it seems that this is the clincher that pushes it back before WW II and predates all of Ken's quoted thoughts .. even though it was published at a later time it obviously is a cogent memory from earlier times than WW II ..
We all remember that little verse we learned at the Academy: "When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, jump, and shout."

unpaged. Marcel Raymond "Jerry" Gerin. In OLD TALES RETOLD BY 28ERS: ANECDOTES FOR OUR FORTY FIFTH REUNION. Annapolis: USNA Class of 1928.
© 1973, Vincent Treanor. [Gerin was Capt, USN (Ret.) and Reference Librarian, Fairfax Co. (VA) Public Library.]
.. the interest remains though in just how far back does it go ?? .. did a lecturer at the Academy pass it to the 28ers ?? .. if so did he compose it or did he get it from some earlier military/naval time ?? .. or did one of the students bring it into vogue ?? .. and if that's the case we again need to know if he was a clever verse man or did he bring it from an older relative who had passed on this gem of wisdom .. a life's work in the making and a PhD at least ..

WoZ who often manages to run in circles
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon May 17, 2010 6:02 am

.. am at work so I can't do too much on this but found this fairly quickly ..
One explanation (http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:0Q ... =firefox-a) I have found says:

"When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout."

The original of that was "When in danger or in doubt, port your helm and come about."
That is, when you don't know what's happening, turn to starboard and head in a different direction." (Under the International Rules of the Road the give-way vessel comes right.)

If you aren't sure who's the give-way vessel, you are the give-way vessel.

This way, everyone knows what the other guy is going to do. No surprises. A collision at sea can make your whole day suck.

(Back in the Old Days "port your helm" meant "come right" because when you pushed the tiller arm to port, the rudder went starboard.)
I could only find two sites with this line though, and none of them scientific (linguistic or so). So I just give it as a possibility.
Source: bautforum.com
.. but it is another avenue and opens up another area of possibilities ..

WoZ who loves going to port .. vintage preferably
Last edited by Wizard of Oz on Tue May 18, 2010 4:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Mon May 17, 2010 8:33 am

The Rhyme of the Ancient Adager.
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Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon May 17, 2010 11:14 am

When a man falls into his anecdotage it is a sign for him to start Twittering.
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Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Wed May 19, 2010 5:20 pm

Yes, the cuckoo clock is running down.
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Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by magnut » Sun Oct 09, 2011 7:47 am

I also found this thread and this site through Google.

"When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout" was sung in a comedy skit on a New York City radio station circa 1971. As I learned by reading the other replies, it apparently originated some time prior to that.
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Re: When in trouble, when in doubt, . . .

Post by KCPhil » Tue Jun 28, 2016 10:41 pm

I first heard it on a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show as a kid. That was back in very early '60s.
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