Tuesday, July 06, 2004

No, you can't get friendly with a crocodile, because inside he's hurting

In her delightful tale of elderly relatives blowing her inheritance on frivolous trips overseas, Hazelblackberry (or rather that lovable rogue Bloody Ern) used a term that I’d not heard before to describe bad breath: ‘crocodile breath’.

Who exactly is sniffing at the top of a crocodile’s windpipe, pronouncing the air down there to be rancid and then living to complain about it? ‘I mean, jeez, I’ve smelt some distasteful carnivore exhalations in my time, but crocodylus porosus takes the freakin’ cake.’

Now, crocodiles may have some coarse manners which are not conducive to sweet-smelling breath but they are not scavengers and avoid rotting meat. This is more than you can say of the hyena, for example, who is quite happy to chow down on those two-week old left-overs you were hoping somebody else would throw out. And crocodiles take care of themselves; the Egyptian plover (pluvianus aegyptius) eats leftover meat from the teeth of the Nile Crocodile.

So I guess it must be the Egyptian plovers who are infecting the English language with defamatory anti-crocodile idioms. Who else gets close enough? And they alone have a vested interest in building-up crocodile insecurities about their personal hygiene. ‘Dude, you stink. Seriously. Do you really think all those fine crocodile bitches are gonna let you get your groove on with halitosis like that? Let me take care of that for you.’

And then there’s ‘crocodile tears’. Crocodiles do in fact, like humans, produce tears from their lachrymal glands. But how exactly did their tears become synonymous with insincere emotions? Do crocodiles, under the strain of one too many bad breath cracks, weep their little three-and-a-half chambered hearts out only to be accused by an Egyptian plover of faking it, of putting on the waterworks to manipulate their fellow river or esturary dwellers? Does a crocodile need the permission of a plover bird to really feel something?

In which case, the plovers have got crocodilian psychiatry and dentistry all sewn up. They must be raking in six figures and all the rotting ‘tween-teeth meat they can eat.

Apparently, the expression 'crocodile breath' comes from a Chinese proverb: 'You must have crossed the river before you may tell the crocodile he has bad breath.’ Which is true -- unless you’re an Egyptian plover, in which case you can do it while you screw with his mind and empty his wallet.

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