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Crocodile tears

Crocodile tears

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Crocodile tears are a false or insincere display of emotion such as a hypocrite crying fake tears of grief
Grief is a multi-faceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions...

. The phrase gives its name to crocodile tears syndrome, an uncommon consequence of recovery from Bell's palsy
Bell's palsy
Bell's palsy is a form of facial paralysis resulting from a dysfunction of the cranial nerve VII that results in the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side. Several conditions can cause facial paralysis, e.g., brain tumor, stroke, and Lyme disease. However, if no specific cause...

 where faulty regeneration of the facial nerve
Facial nerve
The facial nerve is the seventh of twelve paired cranial nerves. It emerges from the brainstem between the pons and the medulla, and controls the muscles of facial expression, and functions in the conveyance of taste sensations from the anterior two-thirds of the tongue and oral cavity...

 causes sufferers to shed tears while eating.

History and usage

The expression comes from an ancient anecdote that crocodiles weep in order to lure their prey, or that they cry
Crying is shedding tears as a response to an emotional state in humans. The act of crying has been defined as "a complex secretomotor phenomenon characterized by the shedding of tears from the lacrimal apparatus, without any irritation of the ocular structures"...

 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.

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
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

: Crocodiles possess lacrimal gland
Lacrimal gland
The lacrimal glands are paired almond-shaped glands, one for each eye, that secrete the aqueous layer of the tear film. They are situated in the upper, outer portion of each orbit, in the lacrimal fossa of the orbit formed by the frontal bone. Inflammation of the lacrimal glands is called...

s 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.

One prominent use of the expression is by Shakespeare in Othello
The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story "Un Capitano Moro" by Cinthio, a disciple of Boccaccio, first published in 1565...

 Act IV, Scene i
Again, Shakespeare, in an earlier play, Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, part 2
Henry VI, Part 2 or The Second Part of Henry the Sixt is a history play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1591, and set during the lifetime of King Henry VI of England...

, Act III, Scene i

See also

  • Psychological manipulation
    Psychological manipulation
    Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative,...

  • Shallow emotions of psychopaths
  • Superficial charm
    Superficial charm
    Superficial charm is "the tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile."The phrase often appears in lists of attributes of psychopathic personalities, such as in Hervey Cleckley's The Mask of Sanity and Robert Hare's Hare Psychopathy Checklist.Associated expressions are...

  • Superficiality
    'The principle of superficiality versus depth' has pervaded Western culture since at least the time of Plato: 'the dialectic of truth and appearance,' as the surface image of the latter 'competes with what Plato designates for us beyond appearance as being the Idea'.21stC urban parlance speaks of...

  • Sympathy
    Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Also known as empathic concern, it is the feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. Although empathy and sympathy are often used...

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