"Tell That To The Marines"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: This expression is a form of an old saying, "That will do for the marines, but the sailors won't believe it," which grew up out of the jealousy between the two British services. Byron (1788-1824) made use of a form of this saying at the end of Canto II of The Island (1823), in which a sailor expresses doubt of a mate's declaration of faithful love to an island girl by saying "Right . . . that will do for the marines." Scott uses the phrase thus: On a Journey into Scotland in 1763 young Darsie Latimer meets by accident and is kidnaped by a man who proves to be his uncle, High Redgauntlet. In the course of trying to rescue Darsie, his friend Alan Fairford sails aboard a smuggling boat carrying with him a letter from a priest to the stanch Stuart sympathizer Redgauntlet. Alan has naïvely failed to recognize the "priest" as the Pretender. When the smuggler captain twits him upon his being a Jacobite, Alan says he does not understand the innuendo. Exclaiming upon his claiming innocence while carrying such correspondence, the captain retorts:

"Tell that to the marines–the sailors won't believe it."