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For the Alex Rider novel by Anthony Horowitz, see Crocodile Tears (novel).

Crocodile tears are a false or insincere display of emotion such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief. 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 English 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;

The crocodile tears syndrome is an uncommon consequence of recovery from Bell's palsy where faulty regeneration of the facial nerve causes sufferers to shed tears while eating.

See also

References

  1. ^ John Ashton, Curious creatures in zoology, http://books.google.co.uk/books?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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