Crocodile tears

Crocodile tears (or superficial sympathy) are a false or insincere display of emotion such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief. The phrase gives its name to crocodile tears syndrome, an uncommon consequence of recovery from Bell's palsy where faulty regeneration of the facial nerve causes sufferers to shed tears while eating.

Contents

History and usage

The expression comes from an ancient anecdote that crocodiles weep in order to lure their prey, or that they cry for the victims they are eating. This tale was first spread widely in the stories of the travels of Sir John Mandeville in the 14th century.[1]

In that country and by all Inde be great plenty of cockodrills, that is a manner of a long serpent, as I have said before. And in the night they dwell in the water, and on the day upon the land, in rocks and in caves. And they eat no meat in all the winter, but they lie as in a dream, as do the serpents. These serpents slay men, and they eat them weeping; and when they eat they move the over jaw, and not the nether jaw, and they have no tongue.

An alternate explanation for the expression's origin is that crocodile tears cannot be authentic because crocodiles cannot cry; they lack tear ducts. Yet this is a myth: Crocodiles possess lacrimal glands which secrete a proteinaceous fluid, just like in humans, though tears will only be visible after a crocodile is out of the water for a prolonged period of time, and the eyes begin to dry out. However, while crocodiles can and do generate tears, they do not actually cry.[2]

One prominent use of the expression is by Shakespeare in Othello Act IV, Scene i

O devil, devil!

If that the earth could teem with woman's tears,

Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.

Out of my sight!

Again, Shakespeare, in an earlier play, Henry VI, part 2, Act III, Scene i

...and Gloucester's show

Beguiles him as the mournful crocodile

With sorrow, snares relenting passengers;

See also

References

  1. ^ John Ashton (2009). Curious creatures in zoology. ISBN 9781409231844. http://books.google.com/?id=8-KxOZWvNdgC&pg=PT185. 
  2. ^ Britton, Adam (n.d.). Do crocodiles cry 'crocodile tears'? Crocodilian Biology Database. Retrieved March 13, 2006 from the Crocodile Specialist Group, Crocodile Species List, FAQ.
  • D. MALCOLM SHANER and KENT A. VLIET, 2007. Crocodile Tears: And thei eten hem wepynge, BioscienceVol. 57, No. 7, Pages 615–617

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Related information


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  • Crocodile tears — Crocodile Croc o*dile (kr[o^]k [ o]*d[imac]l; 277), n. [L. crocodilus, Gr. kroko deilos: cf. F. crocodile. Cf. {Cookatrice}.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) A large reptile of the genus {Crocodilus}, of several species. They grow to the length of sixteen or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Crocodile Tears — Auteur Anthony Horowitz Genre Aventure, Espionnage Pays d origine Royaume Uni Traducteur Annick Le Goyat Éditeur Livre de Poche Jeunesse Date de parution …   Wikipédia en Français

  • crocodile tears — If someone cries crocodile tears, they pretend to be upset or affected by something …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • crocodile tears — n. insincere tears or a hypocritical show of grief: from an old belief that crocodiles shed tears while eating their prey …   English World dictionary

  • crocodile tears — ► PLURAL NOUN ▪ insincere tears or expressions of sorrow. ORIGIN said to be so named from a belief that crocodiles wept while devouring or luring their prey …   English terms dictionary

  • crocodile tears — noun a hypocritical display of sorrow; false or insincere weeping the secretaries wept crocodile tears over the manager s dilemma politicians shed crocodile tears over the plight of the unemployed • Hypernyms: ↑hypocrisy, ↑lip service * * * noun… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Crocodile Tears — For other uses, see Crocodile tears (disambiguation). Crocodile Tears   …   Wikipedia

  • crocodile tears —    If someone cries crocodile tears, they pretend to be upset or affected by something.   (Dorking School Dictionary)    ***    To shed crocodile tears means to shed false tears or show insincere grief.     Caroline pretended to be sad but we all …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

  • crocodile tears — N PLURAL If someone is crying crocodile tears, their tears and sadness are not genuine or sincere. The sight of George shedding crocodile tears made me sick …   English dictionary

  • crocodile tears — {n.} Pretended grief; a show of sorrow that is not really felt. * /When his rich uncle died, leaving him his money, John shed crocodile tears./ (From the old legend that crocodiles make weeping sounds to attract victims and then shed tears while… …   Dictionary of American idioms

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