Crocodiles and Alligators

We went to Midtown today and walked through Macy’s. I am not much of a shopper so most of these excursions are just opportunities to look around. Besides picking up a coffee, the only thing I did was snap this photo of the display near the Lacoste booth:


It’s like that green crocodile is trying to escape from the mass of undifferentiated white ones. It is like an imprisoned logo, which makes me think of this passage from the Bruno Schulz short story collection, appropriately titled “The Street of Crocodiles”:

“Do you understand the power of form, of expression, of pretense, the arbitrary tyranny imposed on a helpless block, and ruling it like its own, tyrannical, despotic soul? You give a head of canvas and oakum an expression of anger and leave it with it, with the convulsion, the tension enclosed once and for all, with a blind fury for which there is no outlet. The crowd laughs at the parody. Weep, ladies, over your own fate, when you see the misery of imprisoned matter, of tortured matter which does not know what it is and why it is, nor where the gesture may lead that has been imposed on it forever.”

“Imprisoned matter,” which in this instance would be the green crocodile with its more animated expression (“blind fury,” perhaps?) and indeed “no outlet” except to be stared at for all time by shoppers or flâneurs.

Crocodiles are more widely distributed than alligators. But the latter are just as ripe for wordplay and literary invocation as the former.

“Family Guy” had a good skit once about a crocodile at an alligator rally, who is outed and referred to as a “crock” after he describes some very crocodile-esque behavior such as it being “nice to get out of the swamp.” In Richard Sheridan’s play “The Rivals,” there’s also this nifty malapropism from Mrs. Malaprop, with “allegory” in place of “alligator”:

“as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.”

There aren’t any alligators in Egypt (or Ireland, Sheridan’s home country) – they only live in the wild in the U.S. and China. But the word is great for playing with, as I can attest to as someone nicknamed “Al.” What versatility: the same word is also used as the University of Florida’s team name, “Gators.”

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