Saturday, 6 July 2013

Crocodile Tears

A bog standard definition of ‘crocodile tears’ is ‘fake tears’. But where did these ‘fake tears’ actually derive from? The answer to everything: good, old History!

In case you didn’t know, the saying actually originates from the medieval belief that crocodiles shed tears in sadness while they slaughtered and ate their prey. (A bit like when Henry VIII ordered for his wives to be killed- because if you shed tears, that makes a murder perfectly acceptable!) The myth dates back to the 14th century, from the then widely popular and famous novel: ‘The Travels of Sir John Mandeville’. The book accounts a chivalrous knight’s adventures throughout Asia. (You can download it for free here!)

The book encompasses a description of crocodiles: “These serpents slay men, eat them crying.’ Mandeville’s recount of ‘the weeping reptiles’ later placed itself in Mr Shakespeare’s works- such as Othello and Anthony and Cleopatra , and since has become an idiom as early as the 16th century. The phrase, ‘crocodile tears’ is even used today in everyday English language. In fact, Shakespeare has been responsible for a lot of other modern day sayings we hear still every day! And that is the story of ‘crocodile tears’ in a nutshell - fascinating!

PS: You can find out more about "medieval crocodiles" as shown in the picture above, here      


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