If you’re not in the military or you don’t have any family or friends who are service members, you might only know about the armed forces in terms of how they’re portrayed in movies and TV. Therefore, you probably associate sailors, pilots, and Marines as heroic, courageous, and quick on their feet.
While these are all true parts of most service members’ characters, you might also notice the classic banter and joking around that is common in every branch of the military. From cringeworthy nicknames to embarrassing drinking games, don’t be fooled into thinking that those in the military are always serious.
So, what does this have to do with the assumption that Marines eat crayons? Well, in short, the phrase is a joke and for the most part it’s all in good fun. But, the background for this joke is rooted in stereotypes and potentially harmful claims.
Here, we’re talking about why Marines eat crayons, where this stereotype came from, and what the implications are.
Why Do Marines Eat Crayons?
Well, let’s think about it for a moment. When you think of someone eating crayons, who comes to mind?
Probably a two-year-old who puts absolutely everything in their mouths – just to give it a taste. Or someone who isn’t all that intelligent and is confused about the fact that crayons are, indeed, not food.
So, what’s going on here? Have Marines been seen eating crayons instead of their MREs?
To put it bluntly, no. Marines haven’t been known to actually eat crayons. However, they have been known as the least intelligent branch of the military, hence the association with young children and mentally challenged people.
Obviously, children who put everything into their mouths aren’t signaling unintelligence. And making a joke about someone who is mentally challenged is a low-blow, to say the least. But alas, this is where the “Marines eat crayons” joke comes from.
Why Are Marines Considered Unintelligent?
Unfortunately, with the way most of America’s education system is set up, passing tests, proficiency at math, science, and grammar, and overall “book smarts” are typically held in higher esteem than “street smarts,” physical intelligence, or artistic ability, for example.
Since the Marines aren’t required to pass highly complicated tests like what’s required to join the Air Force or work in the intelligence department in the Coast Guard, they’re considered to be “knuckleheads.” In short, you don’t need a college degree to be a successful Marine.
You do, however, need other specialized skills and becoming a Marine is nothing to gawk at. Marines go through one of the toughest training programs in the military and are considered a special force supported by the Navy.
But this “special” aspect of becoming a Marine also contributes to the whole “Marines eat crayons” thing. More on that later.
In fact, when researching the reasons why someone might say that Marines eat crayons, some service members (albeit probably Marines) say that the Army should be the ones who cop the “unintelligent” jokes.
The Army notoriously has the lowest standards when it comes to accepting enlisted recruits. You can even have a DUI on your record and potentially get a waiver to join the Army. That’s not the case for any other branch of the military. Still, for some reason the Marines have been accepted as the uneducated ones.
What Else Contributes to Marines Eating Crayons?
Another aspect of the “Marines eat crayons” joke goes back to the idea that Marines think they’re part of a club that no one else can enter.
With all of the intense training and preparation leading up to becoming a Marine, it can often lead to an equally intense sense of pride – and rightfully so. But, with this pride often comes stubbornness and what other branches of the military consider to be brainwashing.
The cult-like attitude that’s prevalent among Marines contributes to what’s perceived as dumb, dull, and sheep-like mentality. So, again, it seems that this stereotype is not rooted in facts at all.
What Are the Implications of Saying “Marines Eat Crayons”?
Although the joke seems to be a relatively new phenomenon, with many older veterans being unaware of the phrase altogether, most Marines know about it and have a good sense of humor regarding the whole thing.
When you have such a serious day job and your work involves life and death every single day, you tend to do your best to find a lighthearted perspective. After all, the idea that someone thinks they’re dumb is probably the least of a Marine’s worries.
So, if you jokingly serve an ex-Marine a box of crayons with their lunch, so long as you also offer respect and a good laugh, they’re most likely to take it on the cheek.
And there you have it – the reason why Marines eat crayons. If you’re ever on a military base, you’re sure to hear constant banter and joking around among the service members and it seems to be their way of blowing off steam. From POGs to grunts and everything in between, there’s surely a derogatory term for every post, branch, and status in the military.