Bob's your uncle
...And Bob's your uncle is an expression of unknown origin, commonly used in Great Britain and Commonwealth countries. Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions, similar to the French expression "et voilà!".
"Bob's your uncle" is an exclamation that is used when "everything is all right" and the simple means of obtaining the successful result is explained. For example: "left over right; right over left, and Bob's your uncle – a reef knot". Sometimes the phrase is followed with "and Nellie's your aunt" or "and Fanny's your aunt". It is sometimes elaborately phrased Robert is your mother's brother or similar for comic effect.
- A common explanation is that the phrase dates to 1887, when British Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury decided to appoint his nephew Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive job of Chief Secretary for Ireland.
- An ironic expression of something easily done - like: "there you have it, as if by magic" - Cassell & Co publisher of A.J. Langguth's work Saki, A Life of Hector Hugh Munro of 1981, cites it in suggesting that the expression arose after Conservative Prime Minister Robert (Bob) Cecil appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887, which was apparently surprising and unpopular. In this sense the expression also carried a hint of sarcastic envy or resentment, rather like "it's who you know" not "what you know" that gets results, or "easy when you know how". Since then the meaning has become acknowledging, announcing or explaining a result or outcome that is achieved more easily than might be imagined.
- Another explanation is that it is related to the British General, Lord Roberts, nicknamed "Bobs". The British Army in India coined the term "Bob's your uncle" to indicate one had the good fortune of being related to the commanding general.
Other slang uses of "Bob"
- There have been several other slang expressions which included the word "Bob", some associated with thievery or gambling, and, from the eighteenth century on, it was also a common generic name for someone one did not know.[clarification needed] The difficulty with any of these explanations is that – despite extensive searching – the earliest known published uses of the phrase are from 1932, two from 1937, and two from 1938. (See these and other quotes in American Dialect Society list archived posts by Stephen Goranson.)
- Bob, as a slang term meaning "safety", is cited in the 1736 dictionary A Collection of the Canting Words and Terms, both ancient and modern.[clarification needed]
- Bob is also a slang term for shilling, a former monetary unit and coin of the United Kingdom, which was used in such phrases as the Scouts' "Bob a Job Week".[clarification needed]
- Bob was also a 19th-century slang term for sex as in "quite a dry, Bob" from Lord Byron's "Don Juan", with a "dry Bob" meaning "coitus without emission" and also serving as a slam against his contemporary Robert Southey.[clarification needed]≥
Numerous works of arts, entertainment, and media either use the phrase as a title or include the use of the phrase. The following are examples.
- Bob's Your Uncle (1942) is a British film.
- In the movie The World's Fastest Indian (2005), the main character Burt Munro played by Anthony Hopkins employs the phrase when explaining the casting of an engine piston to his neighbor's young kid. He uses the same phrase several more times in the movie.
- Bob's Yer Uncle is a 1990's alternative rock band from Chicago, IL USA.
- Bob's Your Uncle was a late-1980s alternative rock group from Canada.
- Track 7 on Happy Mondays' album Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches (1990) is titled "Bob's Yer Uncle".
- Bob's Your Uncle was an ITV game show in 1990s
- In Foyle's War Series 6, episode 2, "Broken Souls", the desk sergeant advises Sam how to place a bet in the station's football pool, and ends his instructions with, "And Robert's your father's brother".
- In the FX animated series "Archer", Season 2 Episode 5, "The Double Deuce". In a World War I flashback, a pilot exclaims, "Bob's your uncle!" after convincing members of his squadron to participate in a tontine.
- How Few Remain, an alternate history novel in which the Confederate States of America win the American Civil War; said by American general William Rosecrans to Prussian colonel Alfred von Schlieffen in conversation on the eve of U.S. redeclaration of war on the South due to Confederate acquisition of Mexican provinces Sonora and Chihuahua.
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- Trahair, R. C. S. (1994). From Aristotelian to Reaganomics: A Dictionary of Eponyms With Biographies in the Social Science. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 72. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- Bernstein, Jonathan (2006). Knickers in a Twist: A Dictionary of British Slang. Canongate U.S. p. 65. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- Goranson, Stephen. "American Dialect Society list". Linguistlist.org.
- Quinion, Michael. "Bob’s your uncle". World Wide Words.
- Baily, N. and transcrib'd into XML Most Diligently by Liam Quin (1736). A Collection of the Canting Words and Terms, both ancient and modern, used by Beggars, Gypsies, Cheats, House-Breakers, Shop-Lifters, Foot-Pads, Highway-Men, &c. London.
- "Shiling". Coins of the UK.
- Turner-Lord, Jann (1992). Bob's your uncle: a dictionary of slang for British mystery fans. Fithian Press. p. 62. 9781564740229.