[PW] Bobs your uncle -- but who is Bob?

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Sun Sep 12 14:40:43 PDT 2021


Researcher Pascal Tréguer has a helpful webpage with solid citations
which explores the meaning and origin of the phrase "Bob's (Bobs) your
uncle".

https://wordhistories.net/2018/06/04/bobs-your-uncle/

The Oxford English dictionary lists the slang phrase "Bob's your
uncle" with the definition "everything is all right." This is
intriguing because slang and cant dictionaries from the 1600s to 2010s
list  "it's all bob" with the meaning "all is safe", "the bet is
secured" (as mentioned by Tréguer).

There is a match for "Bob’s yer Uncle!" in 1891, but it may be
unrelated to the modern expression.

The January 1923 cite mentioned by Fred was identified by researcher
Bill Mullins who posted about it on the American Dialect Society in
2017.

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2017-March/146828.html

Bill noticed the match in the British Newspaper Archive, but he didn't
have access to that database; hence, I gathered the details for him:

http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2017-March/146830.html

Tréguer's webpage shows the context of the phrase "BOBS YOUR UNCLE"
via a clipped image from the 1923 newspaper. The phrase is a song
title. Unfortunately, the lyrics of the song have not yet been
uncovered (to my knowledge).

Miscellaneous explanations for the phrase have been offered, e.g.:

World Wide Words
https://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bob1.htm

The Phrase Finder
https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bobs-your-uncle.html

Researcher Stephen Goranson discussed some "Bobs"
http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2019-December/156264.html

Garson

On Sat, Sep 11, 2021 at 12:17 PM <solomons1pal at aol.com> wrote:
>
> Colleagues,
>
> The most common explanation of the origin of the British saying "Bob's your uncle!" is that it refers to the notorious nepotism of Lord Salisbury.  But as Wikipedia points out, the Salisbury scandal took place in the 1880's, and the first recorded expression of the saying does not occur until 1924 -- a long time after the scandal. My conjecture is that the "Bob" referred to is not Salisbury, but Field Marshal Lord Roberts (1832-1914), who was popularly called "Bobs".  If I'm right, a momentous change has to be made; it should not be "Bob's" but "Bobs's your uncle", with the apostrophe after the first "s", not before it.  Can anyone support or refute my conjecture?                     Mark Halpern
> _______________________________________________
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