"No river is shallow to a man who cannot swim."Bob, who is unable to swim, falls into the water and starts flailing around, calling for someone to help him. Alice arrives on the scene, but simply tells him to, "Stop drowning and stand up." Much to Bob's chagrin, he does so and thus finds out the water was only waist deep at most. A common occurrence, especially in comedies.
— Paladin, Have Gun — Will Travel
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Happens to Fuyuki from Sgt. Frog more than once.
- Sonic in Sonic X does this during his first fight with Knuckles.
- In Hidamari Sketch, while at a water park, Yuno worries about how to enter the lazy river, since she can't swim and her innertube would float away if she puts it in first (and jumping in is not allowed). While she agonizes over what to do, Sae informs her that the pool is shallow.
- This happens to Akane in Ranma ˝ when she starts her swimming lessons. And it continues all the way through the manga, even when the water is only knee-deep and she's wearing flotation devices. And a snorkel.
- Judai and Sho do this in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX when Sho loses confidence over an upcoming tag duel and tries to leave Duel Academy.
- Tsuna and his new friend Enma (the only person who is more of a Butt Monkey than him) do this in Katekyo Hitman Reborn!.
- Hayate the Combat Butler does this significantly, when Isumi is forced to teleport herself, Hayate and Sakuya away from a losing battle. Hayate eventually helps either get Sakuya to where she can stand, or just helps her to stand in the water, while Isumi is apparently unwilling to even get wet at all, and brings in her dolphin so she doesn't even get her clothes wet. The other two comment.
- In SD Gundam Force, Bakunetsumaru gets caught in a flash-flood and when the flood finally dumps him someplace safe, he's still flailing like someone who's drowning. Genkimaru has to tell him he's fine and get up.
- A variation happens to Mametarou in Massugu Ni Ikou. He's trapped on a mattress floating down the middle of an artificial river, and he's too scared of water to jump off. His owner's boyfriend jumps in to save him, discovering that the water's only about a foot deep. In fairness, it would have been chest-high on a little dog like Mame.
- Happens to Ash and his friends at least once in Pokémon.
- An early Filler episode of Detective Conan has the Detective Boys fall into a river, which causes Mitsuhiko to start flailing around and panicking. He has to be told that the water isn't that deep.
- At one point in One Piece, Luffy crashes through the ceiling of a bathhouse and lands in a pool. Underwater kicking and thrashing ensues, until he realizes it's so shallow all he has to do is lift his head out of the water.
- In the Watchmen Comic Within a Comic story "Marooned", the main character, adrift on a raft and succumbing to morbid hallucinations, jumps into the ocean in order to drown himself. For a few moments, he wonders why he's still alive, then realizes he's standing ankle deep in water, just a few feet from land.
- Calvin does this at least once. Justified subversion here: he knew the water wasn't deep and just wanted Mom to pay attention to him (she was reading).
- Garfield does this once when he's on the beach and a wave knocks him into the ocean. Jon just sits there watching and says, "I'd save you, Garfield, but there's no way I'm giving a cat mouth-to-mouth.''
Films — Animation
- Chuckie does this in the first Rugrats movie.
- Edgar in Once Upon a Forest is left flailing in a pool of water, only for Abigail and Russell to point out that it's only knee-high.
- Used in Ice Age, with small proto-elephants in a tar pit (they were doing it on purpose).
- Muk and Luk do this in Balto, leading to a whole speech about the "shame of the polar bear that fears the water".
Films — Live-Action
- Little John in Robin Hood: Men in Tights does this in an inch-deep stream.
- Robin Hood: Men in Tights was parodying a similar scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where Robin and Little have this conversation after they're both knocked into the water after a quarterstaff battle;
Robin of Locksley: Do you yield?
John Little: I bloody can't swim!
Robin of Locksley: Do you yield?
John Little: Yes!
Robin of Locksley: Good. Now put your feet down.
John Little: [finds that he is standing in less than 2 feet of water] I'll be buggered.
- In Predators, Edwin falls into a pond and flops around before discovering it's waist-deep.
- A The Three Stooges short had them breaking into a bad guys' hideout through the basement - in a scuffle the lights go out and there's a big splash. Curly starts crying "Moe, Larry, I'm drowning!" and keeps saying it as the lights come on and we see he's standing in a washtub in about six inches of water. Moe growls "Hey, porpoise!" and smacks him.
- Shows up early on in Song of the Sea when Ben, who is afraid of water, is dragged into the ocean. His younger sister and pet dog watch as he flounders, showing that he's barely in deep enough to cover his knees.
- Jesus and the Apostles are on a boat, when a storm hits. Unable to see where they're going, they hang on for dear life until Jesus tells everyone to jump out. Peter starts thrashing around in the water, when Jesus stands in front of him, saying "Peter, stop drowning and stand up" (A variation involves a river and Jesus telling him to use the stepping stones like everyone else).
- Happens to Vidia in Silvermist and the Ladybug Curse. Before it's discovered that she's in shallow water, another fairy cries out, "Help! My flowers are ruined and Vidia is drowning!"
- Mentioned, though not seen, in Reaper Man:
Miss Flitworth: In my father's day, any Revenooer came around here prying all by himself, we used to tie weights to their feet and heave 'em into the pond.
Death: But the pond is only a few inches deep, Miss Flitworth.
Miss Flitworth: Yeah, but it was fun watching 'em find out.
- In Warrior Cats, Bluefur attacks the enemy warrior Oakheart, but misses and falls into a river. Bluefur begs for Oakheart to save her, but he laughs and tells her to stand up, because she was "drowning" in shallow water.
- In the first novel of The Riftwar Cycle two trolls literally drown in ankle-deep water, because Pug cast a spell on them that put in them in such pain that they couldn't lift their heads out of the stream.
- On several occasions, news reporters covering a flood have attempted to exaggerate it by reporting from a boat, only to be foiled by people walking past them. One example from NBC's Today resulted in Matt Lauer asking if the two men walking past in galoshes (the water only up to their ankles) were "Holy men walking on top of water."
- The beginning of an episode of Sliders had the group hanging on to a building on a flooded world. The group had to fall in order to get to the portal. Remy did and found himself in water. He screamed that he was drowning until one of his friends told him to stand up. He realized that he is in a much dryer world but landed in a fountain.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Patrick gets butt cramp in the Goo Lagoon and SpongeBob, while pretending to be a lifeguard, tries to save him. It ended up with SpongeBob drowning in the water with Patrick until a real lifeguard saves them by simply walking in the ankle-high water and picking them up.
- Shaggy does it in the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode "The Haunted House Hang-Up" after he, Velma and Scooby land in a well.
Shaggy: Help! I'm drowning! Call the coastguard!
Velma: Stand up. The water's only knee-deep.
- This happens in the intro to an episode of Arthur where Binky is in the swim team, decides he doesn't care about swimming, jumps in, and flails around in what it turns out is waist-deep water. Brain is the one who calls him out.
- Tigger does this in the opening of one of the episodes of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the one titled 'My Hero'. Piglet saves him.
- One episode of U.S. Acres on Garfield and Friends featured a flashback with Wade's father trying to teach him how to swim. As Wade was on water, he was afraid of sinking and kept yelling until his father told him how shallow the water was.
- A quickie has Wade panicking that he's sinking when he falls into Orson's mud wallow, until Orson picks him up by the head and flatly tells him "Try standing up".
- In the "Love and Cheese" episode of Hey Arnold!, Lila is drowning in a stream of water in the Cheese Festival's Tunnel of Love. Arnold comes to save her, and after he grabs her and takes her to the surface, he tells her that they can stand up. Once they do, the water only reaches their ankles. Of course, it's all part of a Zany Scheme played out by Helga to break them apart.
- In the Donald Duck cartoon Donald's Diary, Daisy persistently tries to snare eligible bachelor Donald - at one point flailing in a pond in a park crying for help. When he obliviously walks by, she stands up in a huff in the shin-deep water.
- Happened in one episode of Daria, where the school hosted a casino night on a run-down yacht that eventually crashed into a garbage barge. Everyone had to evacuate and there weren't enough life boats... but luckily, they were only a few meters away from the shoreline and only had to stand up.
- In an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, Number 4, who can't swim and is thus terrified of water, is flailing around, panicking, while his teammates are standing in knee-deep ocean water. Number 1 tells him, in a deadpan monotone, "Stop swimming." He does, and it's revealed they're standing right on top of a KND submarine.
- Used in the Pearlie episode "Ratopia."
- Happens to Christopher the rooster in episode 21 of Boo Boom! The Long Way Home.
- To say things were crazy in the June 6, 1944 D-Day (Operation Overlord) landings at Normandy during World War II is an understatement. There is, however, an amusing story recounted in Stephen Ambrose's D-Day by Corporal George Ryan as he got off his landing craft at Omaha Beach.
Shells were bursting around the LCT. "We gotta get off this thing," someone in Ryan's crew shouted, and they all jumped into the water. Ryan held back. ""I wasn't so much afraid of them bullets or the shells as I was of the cold Channel water. I cannot swim."
Ryan threw off all his equipment, inflated his Mae West (his life preserver), and began to tiptoe in off the ramp when "some German opened up on the side of the LCT with his machine gun, blblblblang. That convinced me. Into the water I dove. I pushed with all my might and started going. I'm swimming and I'm swimming. Somebody taps me on the shoulder and I look up. I was in a foot of water, swimming. You talk about a will to live. If they hadn't stopped me I would have swam two miles inland."
- Comedian Kevin Hart's story about a racist dolphin trying to drown him turns out to be an example of this trope.
- Truth in Television, since you can drown in any level of water that's deep enough to cover your nose and mouth. Two inches can kill you if you can't raise your head.