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When Eating is Tearful The expression “crying crocodile tears” means expressing insincere grief. It arose because crocodiles appear to weep while they are happily munching on prey. A neurological disorder in humans called crocodile tears results from damage to the fifth cranial nerve, which controls the mucous membranes of the face. When the affected person is eating, signals that should stimulate salivation instead stimulate lacrimation–better known as crying.