Bob's your uncle

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Bob's your uncle is an expression commonly used mainly in Britain and Commonwealth nations. Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions to mean, "And there you have it", or "You're all set". For example, "To make a ham sandwich, just put a piece of ham between two slices of buttered bread, and Bob's your uncle". (Cf. voilà and presto.) It is sometimes elaborately phrased Robert is your father's brother or similar for humorous effect.


One theory is that the phrase refers to Lord Frederick Roberts (1832–1914. 1st Earl Roberts, Roberts of Kandahar).[citation needed] Roberts was an Anglo-Irish soldier, born in India, who fought and commanded in India, Abyssinia, Afghanistan, and South Africa. Roberts was one of the most successful commanders of the 19th century and was cited for numerous acts of gallantry. His finest hour was perhaps the ending of the siege of Kandahar in 1878, when he marched a force of 10,000 men more than 300 miles from Kabul, winning a battle, and ending the siege. Well respected amongst his men, Roberts was affectionately referred to as 'Uncle Bobs'. Generally meaning 'all will be well', and often used to indicate a successful outcome, the phrase "Bob's your uncle" is said to have been a term originally used by Roberts's men to increase confidence among the ranks and imply that all would be well.[citation needed]

Another explanation is that the phrase dates to 1887, when British Prime Minister Robert Cecil, Lord Salisbury decided to appoint Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive job of Chief Secretary for Ireland. Lord Salisbury was Arthur Balfour's uncle.

Another theory is that it derives from the slang phrase "All is bob," meaning that everything is safe, pleasant or satisfactory. This dates to the eighteenth century or so (it’s in Captain Francis Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue of 1785).

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. 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.)[1][2]

Any, all or none of these might therefore have contributed to the genesis of the expression.[3]


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