I'm looking for a phrase or idiom for when someone is making up some tragic story to excuse themselves (such as: "Sorry I didn't show up; my father was diagnosed with cancer".. or "I can't keep our appointment; guess what I lost my job!"). And I got to think of a danish expression; "talking for one's sick auntie"; although that expression usually means doing a lot of talk to achieve some benefit. But my focus was particularly on making up excuses, and I was wondering if there might be a similar expression in english?

  • Not a phrase, but this is typically referred to as a sob story
    – Alex W
    Mar 16, 2020 at 2:13

1 Answer 1


The expression I always use in this situation is "The dog ate my homework!"

For example, someone gives a pathetic excuse for something, and the response is an ironic reply of "The dog ate my homework!" usually accompanied by eye-rolling.

  • Another doggy did it: A 'shaggy dog story,' a long-winded tale of low substance sometimes used to tire the listener into accepting the story. Mar 15, 2017 at 15:00
  • Good, but a shaggy dog story is not necessarily an excuse, it can be any long-winded story. Mar 15, 2017 at 15:02
  • 1
    Yes, you are right, and your answer is better than my comment, so I upvoted yours and have no other excuse. Mar 15, 2017 at 15:07
  • 1
    Ah yes, I recall having heard that before. And I believe that's exactly the kind of expression I was looking for. - Thank you very much, both of you. :)
    – RP Nielsen
    Mar 15, 2017 at 16:14
  • 1
    I'd be pleased to.. is there an "accept" button or something? - I'm completely new to the site.
    – RP Nielsen
    Apr 4, 2017 at 15:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.