A lean, mean, fighting machine of a team.


Nikki wants Loudon to help her "get" Raoul (a criminal). Loudon:
-- This guy, Raoul, he really.... he sounds like trouble.
-- Yeah, but we can handle him, you and me. 'Cause we're a team, Loudon. A lean, mean, fighting machine of a team.
Who's That Girl, movie

mean: poor in quality and appearance; shabby
lean: having no surplus flesh or bulk; not fat or plump

They both modify "fighting machine",
Thank you.
  • ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes they do, but mean here means 'nasty', 'vicious', 'uncompromising'. Lean mean fighting machine is something of a cliché these days ~ it was first said by ... erm ... not sure.

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    You may admire a lean etc. machine such as (to pick an example) Vladimir Putin. If you do, then the entire phrase is approving.
    Or you may think that this is a dangerous and outmoded phenomenon (a dinosaur, as M said of James Bond in a recent film) in which case the whole phrase is disapproving and, if used, ironical.

    I've no idea which usage prevails in your country or mine. The phrase itself is ambiguous: mean is bad, lean is generally good.


    Senior Member
    Bill Murray and John Candy in the movie Stripes - a comedy about the military.
    Though they do not appear authoritative, various sources attributing the origination of the phrase to American military basic training are more convincing, in my view.
    The movie probably borrowed it from the military.
    Here is one (not necessarily authoritative) glossary entry for it:
    Lean, Mean, Fighting Machine. A well-trained and conditioned Marine.


    Senior Member
    English - US
    Here is one
    This quote appears in a 2007 book The Warrior's Guide to Insanity by Sgt PTSD Brandi (Andrew B Brandi). I think my 1981 movie citation trumps your 2007 book.
    It's certainly possible that it was used in the military prior to the movie, but the movie popularized the phrase with the public.
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