It seems that krokodili means when two Esperantists speak with each other in a language other than Esperanto, what is the origin of this use?

  • 5
    It is ironic that we are discussing this in English!
    – conor
    Aug 28, 2016 at 10:43
  • 3
    we used to make the distinction between using your native language, which was called "krokodili" and using a different non-native language (eg english) which we called "aligatori" (turns out that there is a whole list of terms: eo.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reptiliumi
    – eMBee
    Aug 28, 2016 at 16:44

3 Answers 3


Wiktionary offers several possibilities:



"From crocodile tears. A crocodile sheds tears while eating its prey. The krokodilanto bemoans the fate of Esperanto while not bothering to speak it."


I heard that people say it because crocodiles have big mouths and small brains, ie, they talk a lot (big mouth) without thinking (small brain). However it is not mentioned in the Wikipedia article so I don't know if this is the true origin. I think it's an amusing analogy nonetheless.


There are some rather persistent stories about an Esperanto instructor who had a crocodile hand puppet. Supposedly he used it when he would occasionally answer a question from a beginner in their native language rather than in Esperanto. Thus, only the krokodilo spoke in any language other than Esperanto.

  • 2
    The wikidictionary entry perhaps mentions a version of this: "When [Andreo Cseh] taught Esperanto, students were only allowed to speak their native language when they were holding a wooden crocodile he always brought with him" but suggests this was a reference to the expression rather than the origin of it.
    – conor
    Sep 18, 2016 at 21:27

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