Crocodile Tears

Meanings of “Crocodile Tears”

The phrase “crocodile tears” means to weep as a pretension after committing the offense. The full phrase is ‘to weep crocodile tears.’ The phrase is commonly used when someone is caught faking an emotion or when children throw a tantrum to gain attention.

Origin of “Crocodile Tears”

The phrase “crocodile tears” seems to have originated from real crocodile tears. A crocodile shows watery eyes after swallowing its prey. However, its first printed usage seems to have appeared in Life of Grindal as re-introduced by Strype about Edmund Grindal, the Canterbury archbishop. The book was published in 1711. “I begin to fear, lest his humility … be a counterfeit humility and his tears crocodile tears.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Crocodile Tears by Mama Lisa

On the banks of the Nile an old crocodile
Lay sunning himself one day,
And he gently did croon an attempt at a tune,
As he watched some small children at play-
At play-
As he watched some small children at play.

He pondered awhile, and a hungering smile
Revealed the extent of his jaw;
He was twenty feet long, was uncommonly strong,
And his teeth were arranged like a saw-
Like a saw-
And his teeth were arranged like a saw.

He used every wile their hearts to beguile,
As toward them he stealthily stole;
He balanced each scale, and waggled his tail,
Then gobbled those children up whole-
Up whole-
Then gobbled those children up whole.

And such is the style of this old crocodile,
He sheds bitter tears o’er his prey;
He was filled with deep gloom when he thought of their doom,
And he wept all the rest of the day-
The day-
And he wept all the rest of the day.

This poem seems to delight the children with the lesson that cruel people always weep crocodile tears like this crocodile of the river Nile that shows his teeth arranged in apple pier and smiles when he looks at the children. The poem shows perfect rhythm and an excellent rhyme scheme, demonstrating its lyrical style of using a short refrain by the end of each stanza. The phrase seems to have been used as an extended metaphor throughout this story.

Example #2

Crocodile Tears by Kay Ryan

The one sincere
crocodile has
gone dry eyed
for years. Why
bother crying
crocodile tears

This minnow poetic on this topic shows that the situation of alienation of human beings from each other has transformed so much that even crocodiles have stopped shedding tears. The word “dry” shows some ecological worries on the poet’s part to demonstrate that global warming is costing us dearly, showing the degradation of biodiversity. Therefore, the organizations showing their concern over this ecological disaster while riding in luxury SUVs should stop their crocodile tears. The phrase shows the use of irony as well as sarcasm.

Example #3

Crocodile Tears by Clive Blake

We had a most horrid schoolteacher,
And us children did all hate her,
She’d shout at us for no real reason,
And threaten to see us later,
She had a dip on a Florida trip,
And was swallowed by an alligator,
But only crocodile tears were shed,
‘Cos we were all just … gladiator!

A lot of artistic license used here!

The poet expresses the children’s thoughts for their cruel teacher who used to thrash and shout at them for no reason. However, when an alligator swallowed her, all the children cried buckets. Through this confessional poetic rendering, the poet has beautifully stated that they wept, but those were crocodile tears. The more ironic is their confession as they think that they have been courageous, but the poet calls this description his artistic license. The phrase seems to have been explained through this short metaphorical rendering.

Example #4

Crocodile Tears by Anthony Horowitz

This novel portrays Alex Rider, a character from Scotland, enjoying his life until Desmond McCain, a charity CEO, meets him. Not sensing a danger from such a sympathetic person, he soon gets involved in a card game that proves deadly for him. A journalist soon informs him about his involvement with the British spy agency that deeply engages in East African affairs. However, whenever he presents himself as an innocent person, his manipulators always shed crocodile tears. The novel shows the phrase used as an extended metaphor.

Example in Sentences

Example #1: “Barry is shedding crocodile tears after killing all of his three friends. He receives the people to offer a condolence to him sitting in the main drawing room and welcoming all and sundry. However, one thing perturbs others that he is alone.”

Example #2: “John Carlyle has shed crocodile tears when all of his relations have breathed  their lost, and he inherited a huge property.”

Example #3: I do not think that I am coming to terms with this crocodile tearing situation right now. In fact, I am too afraid to go due to his reaction to this silence and others weeping. I believe  they were responsible for this act.”

Example #4: “Although Niall was consoling him for this tragedy, he was telling his other friends: Do not believe his crocodile tears.”

Example #5: “It was what Luke wanted, he wanted to get rid of her. Everyone in the family was aware of it. That is why, when she died, they knew he was shedding crocodile tears.”