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Tony Grist

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No Good Pretending [Jun. 30th, 2015|09:48 am]
Tony Grist
Twice a week Kirstie spends the day with my mother and we go out and enjoy ourselves. Yesterday we thought we'd spend our mini-holiday at home so we set up our chairs on the patio and went and sat in the sun with our books. "Pretend we're not here." We told Kirstie. Only she couldn't. It was probably too much to ask. She kept coming out to us with offers of hot drinks and suchlike."Shall I throw them away?" she asked, waving a bag of potatoes. "Sell by date June 8th?"  "Of course not," I said. In the end we went out after all. Pretending to be invisible was too much like hard work.

We went to Lewes. There's a pub where Tom Paine used to drink. It says it's famed round the world as the birthplace of American liberty. Yeah right. Tell that to the marines.

(I'd thought "tell it to the marines" had to be a 20th century Americanism, but I stumbled across it yesterday in The Small House at Allington. Trollope, you know. Which takes it back to the 1860s at least. It might still be an Americanism- Trollope wasn't above such things- but on the whole I think not; if he'd recognised it as such he'd have said something like "as our transAtlantic cousins say" and he didn't. By the way, The Small House is a tremendous book.)

Then we went to Ditchling. We noticed there's a museum of arts and crafts. Cool. I've read up about it since. Ditchling is where Eric Gill settled and inspired a generation of craftspeople to settle round him- and the museum is apparently rather special. Now we need to go back.

For me the highlight of the day was stopping on top of Ditchling Beacon and getting out of the car and walking on downland turf and hearing skylarks.

[User Picture]From: flemmings
2015-06-30 12:31 pm (UTC)
T.H. White in The Age of Scandal says it was used in Fanny Burney's diary. This article attributes it to an 1806 novel. The colloquial origin may be much earlier, of course.

"An earlier reference, more in keeping with the original meaning of the phrase, is found in John Davis’ work of naval fiction, The Post Captain; or, The Wooden Walls well manned: comprehending a view of naval society and manners (London: 1806). In Davis’ novel, Captain Brilliant, of HMS Desdemona, when a tale started to grow too tall for his taste, is given to exclaiming, “You may tell that to the Marines, but I'll be d----d if the Sailors will believe it!” In short, our British cousins used the term in a derogatory way: Marines were bumpkins; sailors of the Royal Navy were not."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-06-30 06:00 pm (UTC)
How interesting. I'd always thought it implied that the marines were smart cookies who wouldn't be fooled, but on this showing the original implication was quite the opposite.

How the popular standing of the marines has changed in 200 years!
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From: artkouros
2015-06-30 12:46 pm (UTC)
I've never heard "tell it to the marines". We don't usually talk to our marines, we just send them out to kill people.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-06-30 06:01 pm (UTC)
Well, I guess that's what they're for.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2015-07-01 02:36 am (UTC)
Wikipedia has an entire article on the subject:


It was also used in the Masterpiece Theatre version of "The Railway Children" with Michael Kitchen, Jennie Agutter, and Jemima Rooper.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2015-07-01 09:30 am (UTC)
It's a phrase I've grown up knowing and sometimes saying.
I've been surprised to find it goes back so far.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2015-07-01 12:17 pm (UTC)
There are jokes about U.S. Marines being preternaturally strong and abysmally stupid. Sample:

If you put three Marines in a hermetically-sealed and otherwise empty room with three anvils and come back an hour later, two of the Marines will have broken their anvils and the third will have lost his.
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