I am in search of an idiom that would convey the act of explaining oneself to a person, after a third person has put one into an embarrassing situation, however with a bit of anger towards that third person.

Imagine, three actors in a hierarchical organization: a director, a manager and an employee. The employee makes a promise to deliver something by a deadline, based on which the manager makes a promise to the director to deliver too. The employee then fails to deliver without giving a proper heads-up, thereby putting the manager in a very difficult situation. The manager then has a conversation or a meeting with the director (or even a larger group of people) during which she/he has to explain themselves as well as the employee, possibly making up a fictitious story.

My question is: what would be an idiom to convey what manager did in front of the director, it would combine: to cover up, to answer for, to feel embarrassed, to feel anger or irritation, to be ashamed - all that in a sarcastic tone that emphasizes the awkwardness the manager was put into in front of the director, by the employee.

Not sure how much it is going to help you - in Polish, in a situation like above, we use a phrase which could be literally translated as to flash/shine one's eyes for sb (one = the manager, sb = the employee). The manager would say something like: "Hey, we need to talk! I had a board meeting yesterday and I had to flash my eyes for you again!"

When trying to answer my question please focus on how the manager would describe their awkward situation to the employee or any third person (as in the Polish language example above).


Would to play dumb make sense? It is not as figurative as I would expect, but it is the closest I was able to find.

  • Something that has the same kind of meaning as I'm sorry, they're new? Which can be used even though the person isn't new. It's similar to respond to somebody tripping with First day with your new shoes? Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 21:34
  • Having given it a second thought, I edited my question and added the anger bit to the story. I think it does matter here. Without this grain of anger I could easily get away with to cover up - I am in search of something more emotional and direct.
    – Artur
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 21:52
  • I had to cover for you again.
    – Jim
    Commented Jun 2, 2020 at 23:13
  • I had to make excuses for you . . .
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 4:09
  • To explain to the boss: “He’s not himself tonight.”
    – Xanne
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 4:26

1 Answer 1


I'd suggest answer for.

Cover for, as you say, doesn't go all the way. It's defined as making an excuse for someone or explaining why something has happened. It doesn't assume that you become responsible for it. You simply try to explain it and give a reason.

In contrast, I think you might be able to use answer for.

"I saw the director, and I had to answer for you (or your behavior or lateness) again."

Answer for means "to agree to be responsible for something". I think this might capture the anger element you mention, because when you agree to be responsible for something someone has done, you involve yourself, which can lead to embarrassment and quite possibly anger. It also, I believe, carries the implication that the person you're talking to -- the director in this case -- is upset with you and you are yourself in the position of being blamed.

So I think answer for is a stronger expression that may perhaps suit your purposes.

  • +1 Great answer.
    – Jim
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 5:40
  • @Isabel Archer Thanks for your answer. The only bit I miss in it is this sarcastic tone of a metaphore (flash my eyes) which articulates the awkward position the manager was put in by the employee. In this sense, answer for sounds pretty neutral, formal and common. Another metaphore I heard was I had to dance in front of the director - while I am not sure it is widely used (google stays silent about it), it would be the closest match that conveys the awkwardness. All in all, it might as well be that English simply does not have an equivalent.
    – Artur
    Commented Jun 3, 2020 at 8:49

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