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Stop Drowning and Stand Up

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"No river is shallow to a man who cannot swim."

Bob, who is unable to swim, falls into the water and starts flailing around in panic, 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.

Usually the victim's (imagined) helplessness — giving way to embarrassment — is Played for Laughs.

This scenario happens in real life, but it's not always so comical, as people have actually drowned in shallow water because they were unable to stand up—or simply didn't know they could in time. Two inches can kill you if you can't raise your head. Young children are prone to this, which is why even buckets have drowning labels on them.

Subtrope of Hollywood Drowning.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sonic in Sonic X does this during his first fight with Knuckles.
    Sonic: (post-realization, sheepishly) It's lucky I fell in the kiddie pool.
  • 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 Reborn! (2004).
  • 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.
  • An early Filler episode of Case Closed 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.
  • One Piece: Luffy crashes through the ceiling of a bathhouse and lands in a pool. Underwater kicking and thrashing ensue, until he realizes it's so shallow all he has to do is lift his head out of the water.
  • In Gundam Build Divers, Yuuki, Do-Ji and Sarah are crossing a thin land bridge over ice cold water that, if they fall in, they incur a wait penalty. The boys save Sarah from falling in, only to fall in themselves and start flailing in a panic, only to realize that it isn't that deep at all.
  • In Monster Rancher, "Suezo's Secret Weapon", Golem falls into a river when the Searchers prepare to use a raft. Everyone panics because Golem can't swim (Being made of rocks, and all), and Genki heroically dives in to swim to the rescue. Then it transpires that the water level only goes up to Mocchi's waist.
  • SPY×FAMILY: A chapter has Damian and his two cronies sentenced, as punishment, to go boating with the groundskeeper. The white water churned up by the groundskeeper's vigorous and speedy oar strokes created the illusion that the river was deeper, swifter, and more dangerous than it was, but the illusion was shattered a little while after the kids fell overboard.
  • In the first anime series of Captain Tsubasa, Tsubasa accidentally knocks Manabu into the nearby river with his soccer ball. Manabu starts flailing and screaming, but when Tsubasa goes to help him, he realizes the water barely goes past the knees, much to Manabu's embarrassment.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: In the 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.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Lost Adventures: In "Dirty Is Only Skin Deep" Katara wants to force Toph to take a bath with them. When Toph continues to refuse because she Hates Baths, Katara simply uses her waterbending to sweep Toph into the lagoon (that's barely knee-deep). Toph starts flailing around screaming that she doesn't want to drown, prompting Katara to part the water so she calms down.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • In The Havoc Side of the Force, when Harry arrives to the Jedi Temple, he falls into a pool and nearly drowns - until he realizes that the pool is just a meter deep. He stands up and hopes no one noticed him nearly dying in such a dumb way.

    Films — Animation 
  • Used in Flushed Away when Roddy lands in the sewer after being flushed away, he flails around in the water screaming about how he can't swim... only to stand up and see the water is only up to his knees.
  • 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".
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Early in Kermit's Swamp Years, when Goggles the Toad jumps into the water for the first time, he says he's drowning. Kermit then has to remind him that the water's only three inches deep.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: 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.
  • The Prince of Thieves example is parodied in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, where Little John begs for help in an inch-deep stream.
  • 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.

  • 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).
  • Three friends — a Catholic priest, a rabbi, and a mullah — go fishing together. They run out of flies (or whatever), so, the priest goes to get some. He just steps out of the boat, and walks to the shore without even getting his trousers wet. Then he comes back. After a while, a rabbi does the same trick-— steps out of the boat, walks to the shore, and brings something back to the boat. On a third try, a mullah steps out of the boat, and immediately goes under the water. Priest: "Oh, I think I should've told him where the rocks are". Rabbi: "There are rocks there?"
    • Alternatively, substitute a priest of whatever religion the teller is in favor of for the priest that didn't need the rocks.

  • 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.
  • Played for drama in This Book Is Full Of Spiders, when John ends up trapped in a submerged car. After struggling free, he realizes with a shudder that "the water was only about eight feet deep and he had only been about five seconds away from drowning in it."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Go Princess Go: Lu Li falls into a lake and starts screaming for help. Then she realises the water is less than waist deep.
  • 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."
  • At the end of the Henry Danger episode "Henry and the Bad Girl, Part 2", Van Del falls into his red paint vat and fears he will drown until Captain Man and Kid Danger remind him it's three feet deep.
  • 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.
  • In the first episode of The Suite Life on Deck, Zack Cody London and Bailey are running to safety when they hear an alarm about the ship sinking and seemingly fall overboard. However, they realize they are actually in a hot tub and that the alarm was just a drill.
    • The hot tub is used for this trope again in "Sea Harmony" when, after a chase against the jerk who tried to frame him for a jewelery theft, Zack falls into it and starts splashing everywhere as if he is drowning. Zack's Girl of the Week grabs his hand and they embrace in a romantic yet funny parody of the Titanic (1997). Mr. Moseby eventually tells Zack to stand up.
  • In the Acapulco episode of El Chavo del ocho, there's a part in which Professor Jirafales jumps into the pool to "rescue" Quico (who can't swim) and calls El Chavo to bring them Quico's inner tubes. El Chavo does so, but then he says: "Wouldn't it be better if you stand up?" As it turns out, the water is only knee-deep.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 Larry the Lobster, 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.
    • It also happens in "Foul Play in Funland" after the Funland Robot destroys the gang's Tunnel of Love boat...
      Shaggy: Don't panic! I'll save ya!
      Velma: Thanks, Shaggy. But why don't we just walk out?
  • 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.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: In "My Hero", Piglet saves Tigger from "drowning" in a shallow puddle, leading to the episode's main conflict of Tigger repaying Piglet.
  • 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.
  • Happens in the Daria episode, "Just Add Water". The school hosts a casino night on a run-down yacht that eventually crashes into a garbage barge. Everyone has to evacuate and there aren't enough life boats (in fact, there was only the lifeboat that accidentally drifted off)... but luckily, they are only a few meters away from the shoreline and just have to stand up.
  • In an episode of Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh 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. Numbuh 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.
  • in Visionaries, Darkstorm is unable to swim. So, when he and Mortdredd fall into the moat around his castle, his immediate response is to start thrashing around and shouting for help, only for Mortdredd to tell him that the part of the moat they fell into is shallow and he can stand up in it. Darkstorm, looking very foolish, immediately does so, much to the amusement of the Spectral Knights, five of whom witness the incident.

    Real Life 
  • 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."
  • Most surf life savers have at least a dozen stories of rescues performed in waist deep (or lower) water, with much of the rescue boiling down to 'stand up.'note  That waist deep water is usually in the breaking zone for waves which can — and do — knock people over, causing them to panic.


Video Example(s):


The Middle of the Ocean?

When Rarity, Applejack, and Pinkie Pie's boat capsizes, Spike wants to know how they got back to shore. Turns out they hadn't even lift the dock yet. Spike is not amused.

How well does it match the trope?

4 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / EpicFail

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