We often use the expression ‘crocodile tears’ when we refer to someone’s insincere expressions of sorrow. But have you ever wondered what’s the origin of this idiom? I mean, what’s the deal with crocodile tears?
Let’s find out.
The expression draws on the ancient notion that crocodiles wept while luring or eating their prey. As it turns out though, this is just a myth. Yes, of course, just like humans, crocodiles lubricate their eyes with tears through their lachrymal glands but that has nothing to do with weeping. They don’t cry with emotion and they definitely don’t do it on purpose when devouring their prey (no wild animal eats its kill with remorse). (the article continues after the ad)
According to phrases.org.uk this urban legend first appeared in 1400 in The Voyage and Travail of Sir John Mandeville:
In that country – there are many crocodiles – These serpents slay men, and then, weeping, eat them.
The first use of the term as an idiom, can be found in the Edmund Grindal’s (Archbishop of York and of Canterbury) writings in 1563:
I begin to fear, lest his humility … be a counterfeit humility, and his tears crocodile tears.
If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: This Is The Difference Between A Crocodile And An Alligator
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Sources: The meaning and origin of the expression: Crocodile tears | Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms