Tell It to the Marines – Idiom, Meaning and Origin

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Tell that to the Marines is an idiom that expresses disbelief or skepticism towards a particular statement or claim. Imagine hearing a fisherman’s tale about the gigantic fish that got away and thinking, “Sure, buddy!” Well, that’s the kind of sentiment this phrase captures.

Idioms are phrases where the words together have a different meaning than their individual definitions. With maritime origins, the idiom tell it to the Marines showcases the vibrant nature of the English language, where idioms play a pivotal role in conveying abstract ideas.

This article explains the true meaning behind the idiom and its origin and even shares a few examples of it in a sentence. So keep reading!

Tell It to the Marines Idiom Meaning

Tell It to the Marines – Idiom Meaning and Origin

We use the idiom tell it to the Marines when someone shares a story that seems a bit too far-fetched to be true. In essence, it’s a playful and direct way of saying, “I’m not buying what you’re selling, buddy.”

The complete phrase goes like this: “Tell it to the Marines because the sailors won’t believe you.” It highlights the notion that even in a group of skeptics, the Marines are the ones you’d have to convince, emphasizing the disbelief associated with the tale.

Does ‘Marines’ Need to Be Capitalized?

Yes! When referring to the military branch, Marines is always capitalized because it’s a proper noun. But when referring to marines generically (as in sea soldiers from any country), it can be lowercase. In this idiom, tradition dictates a capital M, but it’s not always necessary.

Origin and Etymology of the ‘Tell That to the Marines’ Saying

Tell That to the Marines Ngram
Tell that to the Marines usage trend.

The origin of “tell it to the Marines” is as stormy as the seas. This phrase emerged from the Navy, where it was believed that marines would believe almost anything they heard.

During World War II, one of the earliest recruitment posters depicted a man standing over a newspaper headline that read, “Huns kill women and children!” with the idiom “Tell that to the Marines” above it. This usage aimed to use the expression in a more positive light.

Tell It to the Marines Synonyms

  • Pull the other one!
  • You’re pulling my leg.
  • Yeah, right!
  • Tell that to the judge.
  • Try selling that elsewhere!

Examples of Tell It to the Marines in Sentences

Tell It to the Marines – Idiom Meaning and Origin 1

  • “You saw a UFO last night? Well, tell that to the Marines!” my dad told us.
  • The guy claims he once outran a cheetah. I told him to tell that to the Marines.
  • You baked this cake without sugar, and it’s sweet? Oh, please, tell that to the Marines!
  • He says he swam across the English Channel in two hours. Someone should tell him to tell that to the Marines.
  • She insisted that her dog could sing, but I just said, “Tell it to the Marines.”
  • She insisted her dog spoke three words. I just chuckled and said, “Tell that to the Marines.”
  • He tried to convince us he had a pet dragon. We all cried, “Tell that to the Marines!”
  • You’ve been to the moon and back over the weekend? Oh, do tell that to the Marines.
  • When he claimed he could run a marathon in under an hour, I told him to “tell it to the Marines.”
  • My son told everyone at school that he saw an alien, and they told him to tell it to the Marines.

Telling Tall Tales

Tell that to the Marines is a timeless expression that reflects our skepticism and connects us to our history with warfare. If you’ve enjoyed unraveling idioms like this one, continue your linguistic adventure on our website. Discover more fascinating phrases that take you on a journey through time and culture.