General information and resources for students and adult learners.

Crocodile tears

Why sham tears or false displays of sorrow are called “crocodile tears”?

The story begins in ancient Egypt along the River Nile. One day, out in the wilderness, a group of Egyptian heard what they thought was a person crying.  Attracted by the cries, the group went to investigate.  They failed to return. The crying began again.  A few other Egyptians, more cautious than their former brethren, went to the spot where they heard the crying.

There they were attacked by a monstrous creature.  The Egyptians noticed that the reptile moaned and sighed like a human in deep distress. Moreover, the strange creature was the only animal they have ever encountered that could cover it’s eyes with a thin transparent membrane; when it did so, it created the illusion of blindness.  The Egyptians, on their guard killed the creature. The monster was later named the “crocodile.”

With the advance of civilization, crocodiles were discovered to inhabit other lands. Always the experience of the Egyptians was repeated.  Eventually humans learned that the crocodile’s moans and tears were affected in order to trap victims. 

Consequently, great precautions were taken to guard against “crocodile tears”.


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