Excuseology

People, how many times have you found yourself unable to wriggle out of some domestic chore? How often have you been unable to divert attention from some hideous mistake or been backed into a corner and forced to make an embarrassing and humiliating confession?

Of course, smart people are always ready with an excuse. Smart people never end up with egg on their face, never have to shoulder the blame and never get manoeuvred into doing stuff that they don't want to do.

So what's your excuse? Exactly, you don't have one, but take note of our handy guide and you will never be stuck for the right response again.

Excuse No 1: The Unconquerable Peak

Example: "Yes, well, what you're asking is clearly impossible."

Called the unconquerable peak because it's a promise on which it's impossible to deliver. Commonly used by politicians after failing to keep to their election commitments. The really talented bullshitter can make it sound like only a complete cretin could ever have believed such an absurdity in the first place.

Excuse No 2: The Procrastination

Example: "Uggh, I'll tidy my room tomorrow!"

Favoured by teenagers and those of a juvenile mentality. It rarely fools anyone other than its perpetrator, and therein lies the key. You can only effectively wield this excuse if you really believe in it yourself.

Excuse No 3: The Deus Ex Machina

Example: "The email must have gone up the spout."

This excuse removes all responsibility for the error from the originator by blaming a contrived and unconvincing external agent. Thus, the problem is caused by a computer system, a rule book or the shabbiness of the local postal system. Of course, everyone knows it's a lie, but no one can prove it.

Excuse No 4: The Fait Accompli

Example: "No, no, it was already bent before I got here."

Without this one the insurance industry would have collapsed long ago.

Excuse No 5: The Collateral Damage

Example: "We could fix it, of course we could fix it, but it's not cheap."

A favourite of conmen, shysters and other slippery characters. Here the emphasis is on the unwanted consequences of an action. A mechanic might very well be able to fix your car properly, but that's going to cost you. And after all, what's so wrong with shoddy brakes and dodgy tyres, as long as it keeps the bills down? This one is also used by employers to circumvent health and safety legislation: "Yes we could install safety rails, fire extinguishers and get the forklift fixed, but it's going to mean job losses."

Excuse No 6: The Yeah, But

Example: "Yeah, but he did exactly the same thing yesterday."

Not strictly an excuse, more a distraction technique. There is obviously no value in trying to excuse something you've done on the grounds that somebody else had done exactly the same thing, but it can help to shift the focus if you're dealing with someone who is unable to grasp basic logic.

Excuse No 7: The Surrealist

Example: "It had huge red eyes, an armour-plated beak and it held a baseball bat in one claw as it swooped through the window, wreaked havoc in the kitchen and then vanished in a cloud of sulphur. And that's why I haven't done the washing up."

Not the kind of excuse that just anyone can pull off, it takes a certain wide-eyed lunacy to be truly convincing. Sadly not as common as it used to be, the Surrealist is still practised by a handful of adventurous types but rarely with any success.

Excuse No 8: The Denial

Example: "Oh no it isn't"

A final retreat from logic and reason, the Denial is the last gasp for those who refuse to recognise a problem, or acknowledge their culpability. Its effect is powerful but temporary, because something will inevitably come back to bite you in the arse eventually.

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