Rudyard Kipling? Elizabeth Ogden Smith? Bob Rigley? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The popular poem “If —” by the prominent literary figure Rudyard Kipling has often been parodied. The first lines extol the ability to remain levelheaded in situations where others are panicking. A comical twist suggests that the unflappable person probably does not really understand what is happening. Would you please examine this humorous response?
Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the “High School Bulletin” section of a newspaper published in Rhinebeck, New York in September 1935. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
And if you can keep your head when everybody round you is losing his, then it is very probable that you don’t understand the situation.
The second match in December 1936 occurred in the high school news section of a Lake Park, Iowa newspaper. The word “and” was omitted, and the word “around” replaced “round”: 2
If you can keep your head when everybody around you is losing his, then it is very probable that you don’t understand the situation.
In both cases, the creator of the expression was anonymous. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.