The Dog Who Ate My Homework
"The dog ate my homework" (or "My dog ate my homework") is an English expression which carries the suggestion of being a common, poorly fabricated excuse made by schoolchildren to explain their failure to turn in an assignment on time. The phrase is referenced, even beyond the educational context, as a sarcastic rejoinder to any similarly glib or otherwise insufficient or implausible explanation for a failure in any context.
the dog who ate my homework
The excuse for the brevity of the document did not become the punchline for another 18 years. The first use of the phrase recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1929, in an essay in the British newspaper The Guardian: "It is a long time since I have had the excuse about the dog tearing up the arithmetic homework." This suggests it had been in use among students for some time prior to that.
It was first reported in an American context in 1965. Bel Kaufman's bestselling comic novel, Up the Down Staircase, published that year, includes two instances where the protagonist's students blame their failure to complete their assignment on their dogs. In a section written as drama early in the book, one student refers to "a terrible tragedy ... My dog went on my homework!" Later, a list of excuses includes "My dog chewed it up" and "the cat chewed it up and there was no time to do it over."
The phrase became widely used in the 1970s. Young adult novelist Paula Danziger paid homage to it with the title of her 1974 debut, The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. Two years later Eugene Kennedy described Richard Nixon as "working on the greatest American excuse since 'the dog ate my homework'" in the Watergate tapes, and the following year John R. Powers had a character in his novel The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice-Cream God reminisce about having used that excuse as a student. Lexicographer Barry Popik, who called it "the classic lame excuse that a student makes to a teacher to cover for missing homework", found citations in print increasing from 1976.
During the next decade, personal computers became more common in American households and schools, and many students began writing papers with word processors. This provided them with another possible excuse for missing homework, in the form of computer malfunctions. Still, "the dog ate my homework" remained common. In a 1987 article on this phenomenon, one teacher recalled to The New York Times that once a student had given him a note signed by a parent saying that the dog had eaten his homework. The following year President Ronald Reagan lamented Congress's apparent failure to pass that year's federal budget on time, "I had hoped that we had marked the end of the 'dog-ate-my-homework' era of Congressional budgetry", he told reporters on canceling a planned news conference to sign the bills, "but it was not to be". His use showed that the phrase had become more generalized in American discourse as referring to any insufficient or unconvincing excuse.
Use of the phrase in printed matter rose steadily through the end of the century. It leveled off in the early years of the 2000s, but has not declined. During the 2012 United States presidential campaign, Barack Obama's campaign used it to rebuke Mitt Romney for not participating in Nickelodeon's "Kids Pick the President" special. "'The dog ate my homework' just doesn't cut it when you're running for president."
In 1989 the popular sitcom Saved By The Bell debuted. Its theme song included the line "the dog ate all my homework last night". Thus embedded in the American consciousness, it would be exploited for comic purposes in other television shows and comic strips.
It became an occasional running gag on The Simpsons, which also began airing that year, mostly playing off Bart's tendency to offer ridiculous excuses for all sorts of misconduct to his teacher Mrs. Krabappel. In a 1991 episode, a difficult day for Bart begins with Santa's Little Helper, the family dog, eating his homework. "I didn't know dogs actually did that", he says, and finds his teacher equally incredulous since he had used that excuse before. In a later episode, when the dog goes to work for the police, Bart must eat his own homework for the excuse to work. When Mrs. Krabappel begins dating Ned Flanders, the Simpsons' neighbor, at the end of the 2011 season, she sees Santa's Little Helper in the Simpsons' yard and asks if he is the dog who has eaten Bart's homework so many times. Bart's attempts to demonstrate this and thus lend credibility to his use of the excuse backfire.
Humorists have also punned on the phrase. A Sam Gross New Yorker cartoon from 1996 shows a Venetian classroom of several centuries ago where a standing student announces "The Doge ate my homework."
Comic strips that feature anthropomorphized dogs as characters have found the concept of those characters eating homework a source of humor. In one of his Far Side panels, Gary Larson depicted a classroom of dogs whose teacher asks, "Did anyone here not eat his or her homework on the way to school?" In a 1991 Dilbert strip, a boy on the street asks Dogbert to chew on his homework so he can have the excuse; in the last panel the boy, beaten, is shown in class claiming a dog made him eat it.
There have been three different books that used the excuse as a title. Two have been collections of poetry for students with a school theme, and one has been a business book about lessons dogs can teach about accountability. Other books for young readers have had titles blaming aliens and the protagonist's teacher for the missing homework. A two-act children's musical called A Monster Ate My Homework has also been written. The Dog Ate My Homework is the title of a British comedy/competition show first broadcast in 2014 on CBBC.
Some attribute the creation of the dog ate my homework to a joke that was going around at the beginning of the 20th century. In a tale found as far back as an 1894 memoir by Anglican priest Samuel Reynolds Hole, a preacher gives a shortened version of a sermon because a dog got into his study and ate some of the pages he had written. However, the clerk loved it because they had been wanting the preacher to shorten his sermons for years.
Basically, this is any child character explaining to their teacher why they haven't done his homework. This will be either a lie, which may or may not be believed, or a Cassandra Truth. If it is the latter, expect them to also bring in the evidence proving their case (such as moist bits from homework, or even the animal itself). The most common variant involves a dog, but other animals can be used as well.
The family dog Duke is notorious for getting into things he's not suppose to, so it didn't come as a surprise when Mom Cassie found out he got his paws and teeth on daughter Lexie's homework. Luckily Lexie was able to show her teacher the security camera video as proof that she wasn't just using "the dog ate my homework" classic excuse. What will the family do with the prize money? Definitely buy Duke some chew toys!
Cat comes up with a money-making scheme where Dog eats people's homework. Soon, Dog starts feeling guilty and even sick about it and this drives him to moral crisis, just when the president wants his unfinished speech to be eaten.
The Medicines Co. has caught a lot of flak lately for lobbying against healthcare reform -- but the company's political agenda has less to do with Medicare Part D than with missed patent deadlines and dog-ate-my-homework excuses.As Jim Edwards noted yesterday, Medicines Co. and other drug makers have seen their names pop up in the media, including the New York Times and MSNBC, for contributing money to lobbyist Dick Armey. He works with law firm DLA Piper and controls the FreedomWorks group charged with disrupting the town hall meetings on healthcare reform.
Then your worst nightmare happened! While you were in the kitchen making a healthy snack, your dog got hungry, too. Instead of eating his dog food, though, he made a sandwich out of your homework! Oh no! What will you do?
When bored, many dogs will give in to their natural curiosity and explore new things. This exploration can often take the form of scratching, biting, and eating. If you were eating a sandwich while you were doing your homework, stray crumbs or bits of food might even make your homework tempting to a dog that's bored!
To dogs, paper is just another thing." It's something to chew on. If it happens to be your homework, that's particularly bad for you. However, it's probably no different to your dog than chewing on newspaper or a book. To prevent your homework from becoming lunch, be sure to store it in a safe place when you're finished with it!
Hi, Camden! If you have a video of your dog eating your homework, we think that there is a good chance that your teacher would believe you! Hopefully your dog has never eaten your homework, though!! ?
Thanks for joining the discussion, Wonder Friend! It's important to do your homework so you can practice what you're learning in school. We also like pizza! We encourage you to use the search box to find Wonders about pizza to explore! :)
Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis and sharing your questions, Abigail S.! There have been a couple times our dog (and once even our cat!) has nibbled a bit on our homework! But fortunately, we caught it before he ate the whole thing! Have you had a pet take some bites out of your homework? ;)
Hey there, Momo! We are glad you're doing your homework, and we hope your dog doesn't mistake your work for a tasty treat! We have lots of awesome topics to Wonder about here at Wonderopolis! You can check out our categories section and search by topic, or you can visit us every day for a brand new Wonder! :)