We use the expression “cry crocodile tears” in relation to an insincere person who hypocritically laments and sympathizes with us for any reason, the cause of which is often himself. They say that a person sheds crocodile tears when he falsely empathizes with us, grinning in his soul and rejoicing at the failures that have befallen our lot. Very accurately and succinctly, this phraseological unit characterizes an insincere and deceitful person, perfectly conveying the essence of his soul. But where did this winged expression come from in the Russian language, after all, our land is not famous for crocodiles?
This phraseological unit came to us from time immemorial, and it was based on the belief that crocodiles, eating their prey, cry, feigning regret for the victim. This catchphrase was used in ancient Rome - references to it were found in the Constantinople library of Patriarch Photius (810-895). And the first known mention of this expression is found in The Voyage and Travel of Sir John Mandeville, which first appeared in England between 1357 and 1371. Among other things, it mentions that crocodiles live in Ethiopia, which cry, eating a person.
But is this true, is the crocodile really so sensitive and sentimental that it sheds burning tears over its victim? For a very long time, people thought that way. Of course, the fact remains: many studies have confirmed that a crocodile does indeed pour a liquid that looks like tears when eating food. However, this liquid has nothing to do with tears, especially tears of regret. There was even a version that these were not tears, but the saliva of the desire for delicious food, manifested at the time of the meal. But all these versions are not true, and crocodile tears have a more mundane explanation. The thing is that crocodiles have an imperfect system for removing excess salts from the body. And special glands that help the kidneys to remove excess salts are located just near the eyes. That is why, during the work of these glands, a liquid appears, which is mistaken for tears. This theory explains why crocodiles do not always "cry" while eating.
Here is the history of the phraseological unit crocodile tears. However, from the fact that we finally learned the truth about the habits of crocodiles, this phraseological unit will not lose its meaning. It is too precise, imaginative and convenient.