Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

American cultural cliche

Have you ever had something unusual happen that was hard to explain?

Have you ever had a pet ruin something or disturb something and feel at a loss for how to explain it?

We’re going to look at how you can best express something like this in English.

We’re also going to look at why this “excuse” is often the source of a joke.


Here’s a question that helps to highlight this very issue.


Hi Lindsay,

The situation I imagined is as follows:

I have  work to write down for a minute of a proceeding conference.

I have written down almost if it,but at that time my cat rolled around on my laptop. And just like that,  all of the data went away! Then I had to explain to my boss what happened, and I said

“My cat disturbed me working. ”

Anyway I can’t explain a suitable situation, but I was wondering which word is the most appropriate to use.

-Keishu from Japan 



You Have To Understand The Cultural Joke Here

You have to first understand the slang here.

In American English, it’s a big joke to say “the dog ate my homework” because it’s known as a “fake” excuse.

It’s an excuse kids could make up as to why they didn’t do their work.

However, everyone knows that excuse, so the situation in the letter is VERY interesting because it’s actually true.

Recognize that this slang has become a joke, and then seek out other ways to say that this actual thing  has happened.


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Options For Saying Something Unusual Like This

When you look at the example here, the phrase “my cat disturbed me working” sounds a bit awkward.

I also wouldn’t say this because it’s more specific than that–the cat actually ruined your information physically.

Grammatically, you may want to say “my cat was disturbing me while I was working” or “my cat disturbed me while I was working”

But here, you’d want to be more specific.


Options For Saying Something Along These Lines

Here are a few different ways you could describe the movement of your cat.

These could be applied to situations with pets or even kids who may get a bit rambunctious !

  • My cat rolled over (on) my keyboard: This works better than rolled about to express your point. It gives the image of actually rolling around too.
  • My cat pounced on my keyboard: Shows that it was kind of a sneaky jump that took you off guard.
  • My cat walked all over my keyboard: You want to be sure to put the emphasis on how bad it was when they walked all over it, and not just that they took a quick step.
  • My cat jumped on my keyboard: It’s not as sneaky sounding as a pounce, but it’s like a regular jump that still surprised you.


Remember The Important Part of This Situation

The most important part of any of these phrases is to say that the data was lost.

This is what you want to emphasize because it’s caused a problem that you are trying to deal with.

You must also remember to apologize in this situation.

You may be asking for forgiveness or for help, depending on the outcome of the situation.

Always be honest about what happened for a variety of reasons.

Then ask for forgiveness or whatever help you may need to fix that situation.



This is largely cultural because of the “excuse joke” so you want to be specific, sincere, genuine, and apologetic.

You need a mix of the right specific vocabulary along with the right way to apologize.

Be honest about what happened, and be sure that you apologize.

Know that strange things happened, but honesty and an apology can help you to work through it.


If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back with you as soon as we can. 

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