Tell it to the marines

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Tell it to the marines is an interesting phrase that is not used as often as it once was, though it is still occasionally seen. We will look at the meaning of the idiom tell it to the marines, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Tell it to the marines is a reply to an unbelievable statement or tall tale, it is an expression of contemptuous disbelief. Tell it to the marines is an idiom, which is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. The marines who were originally referred to in the phrase tell it to the marines were the British Marines. The implication is that the British Marines of the sixteenth century were a gullible group, and they would be the ones most likely to believe a tall tale that is not worthy of belief. Interestingly, in the United States during World War I the phrase was used as a recruiting slogan, and so in American English may have a slightly different connotation. In American English the implication is that when someone tells it to the marines, he will be dealt some consequences for his unbelievable statement. Note that the word marines in tell it to the marines is not capitalized, as it does not refer to any actual branch of the service. An alternative wording or the idiom is tell that to the marines.


Alor Setar MP, Gooi Hsiao Leung, who is PKR supreme council member, also dismissed Apandi’s assurance yesterday that the proposed amendments to appoint government representatives to sit on the Bar Council to ensure good relationships as “totally unbelievable and lacks any credibility – tell it to the marines”. (The Malaysiakini)

“You know he is the drug lord but he is still denying it? Tell it to the Marines,” dela Rosa told reporters on Friday in Iloilo. (The Gulf News)

Sought for comment on Coloma’s statement, Cayetano said, “Tell it to the Marines.” (GMA News)