Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Excuses, excuses

In my last blog I mentioned the time-honoured (and in this case true) excuse of 'the dog ate it.'

We all come up with excuses for our failures, omissions, bad behaviour, stupidity, delayed action, clumsiness, laziness or sin.

But why admit to anything if we can blame someone or something else, put it down to forces beyond our control or rationalise our way out of it being in any way our fault?  It wasn't me it was the the weather / chemical imbalance / market forces / somebody - anybody - else.  Early Apple Mac's used to come out with a whiny American voice when certain Bad Things happened saying: 'It's not my fault.' Seriously. 

With imagination there are plenty of original excuses you can come up with, and the more far-fetched and unlikely-sounding the more believable - with-in reason. 'I couldn't come to your soiree because my grandmother was abducted by aliens' or 'my homework ate the dog' might be pushing it a bit. 

There are some whacky excuses for missing work here including; 'I've been taking ex-Lax and Prozac. I can't get off the john but i feel good about it' and 'The dog ate my car keys. We're going to hitchhike to the vet.'

But for your basic error there are two excellent catch-all excuses:

1. Persian carpet-makers always leave one mistake in their patterns to acknowledge that only Allah may achieve perfection.  I used this extensively during my banking years where it generally fell, to borrow another religious metaphor, on stony ground

2. 'The Cartographer's Folly'  I am indebted, as ever, to the Inkyfool blog for alerting me to an equally catch-all but more prosaic general excuse for error. Map-makers, he tells us, have often put a deliberate error in their work so they can prove whether someone has plagiarised their work. 

"It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one."    George Washington

For other occasions where you may be looking for an excuse, I have provided a Top 40 Excuses in the form of a poem below, but what's the best (or maddest) excuse you've ever come across?

Excuses, excuses

The dog ate my homework.
All my friends do it.
I left it on the bus.
I forgot.

I'm new.
I'm ill.
I have a headache.
It's in the post.

I didn't get your message.
I thought it was tomorrow. 
It was an administrative error.
This has never happened before.

The voices in my head said to.
It just came off in my hand.
I only took my eyes off him for a second.
She had it coming to her.

It is destiny.
It was inevitable.
It just… happened.
It was the beat of a butterfly's wings

It goes against my principles.
I was under pressure.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
If we don't do it somebody else will.

I only had a pint.
I was only doing 30.
He just came from nowhere.
There was nothing I could do.

All my friends were doing it.
We knew no better.
I wasn't thinking.
I was only obeying orders.

(c) Clare Kirwan


  1. Having been suffering regular (well, 6-8 weekly) kidney stones for the last few years, the prescription painkillers I take do have some exciting side-effects. I blame the drugs for all my peculaiarities. Including typos.

    And missing wv messages.

  2. A colleague phoned in sick, one day, with the excuse that she had woken up to discover that her eyelids were stuck together. Hmmm.

  3. And then there's Bartleby the Scrivener, who didn't demean himself by coming up with an excuse, but merely said: “I would prefer not to.”

  4. Paul - or even 'it's in my other genes/jeans!

    Dave - I'm sorry you're suffering. I will forgive you (almost) anything.

    Martin - She nicked that out of 'Cider With Rosie'!

    Acorns - I haven't heard of Bartleby the Scrivener, but he sounds refreshingly honest (which tends to get one into trouble).

  5. Just as an FYI, Bartleby comes to us courtesy of a Herman Melville short story. (You will be excused if you have not read his big tome,Moby Dick . . . I have tried and failed many times . . .)

  6. I haven't read it cover to cover but one of my favourite random quotes is from that very novel: I am weary, Starbuck. Bowed down under the weight of centuries since paradise.

    Who can honestly say they haven't felt like that?

  7. There's also the handy-dandy spritual flaw exemption, whereby you insist you've made an error quite purposefully and humbly, so as not to offend the gods by assuming your own perfection and godishness.
    Good, huh ?

  8. Hi Wendy - Thanks for visiting! Sounds good to me - and not unlike the Persian carpet-makers!