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

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Thu Sep 23 22:39:30 PDT 2021


On September 11, 2021 Mark Halpern suggested that the name Bobs in the
phrase "Bobs your uncle" (or "Bob's your uncle") might refer to Field
Marshal Lord Roberts (1832-1914) who was often referred to as "Bobs".

I replied on September 12 with miscellaneous information on the topic
of "Bob's your uncle".

This post is about one pertinent article I found about Lord Roberts
dated May 31, 1900 in "The Brooklyn Daily Eagle" of New York. The
article acknowledged the U.K. paper the "Daily Mail". Also, this piece
was reprinted in other newspapers such as "The Saint Paul Globe" of
Minnesota.

The military leader Lord Roberts (Bobs) was depicted as an
ultra-competent genius who could accomplish almost any task. The
newspaper article printed the following remarks:

Bobs knows what 'e's about
Bobs will do the job
'E is a man

Date: May 31, 1900
Newspaper: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Newspaper Location: Brooklyn, New York
Article: Robert's, The Genius of Britain's Army
Quote Page 1, Column 2
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
He can get more out of an army, from the Guards down to the roughest
scouting force (as he did between Modder River and Bloemfontein), than
any Russian or German general could have extorted with iron discipline
and adamantine authority. It was the so-called "London pets"—the
Guards—who broke all European records in a three days' march into the
Free State.

Instead of grumbling they made it a matter for boasting. Whenever
other privates would damn another leader, Roberts' men say simply:
'Bobs knows what 'e's about'; 'Bobs will do the job.' It suffices the
majority merely to sum him up with this phrase: 'E is a man.' He can
make no mistake that his army will recognize. Whatever he orders or
does is regarded as the reflection of superhuman inspiration.
[End excerpt]

How is this connected to the phrase "Bobs your uncle"?

Here is one interpretation: If Lord Roberts (Bobs) were your uncle
then everything would be fine because Bobs would accomplish whatever
was required to make your situation work out well.

Admittedly, a single article provides very weak evidence. Also, the
article said nothing about Bobs being an uncle. Further, there was a
two decade delay from 1900 to 1923 when the song titled "Bobs your
uncle" appeared in newspapers. Thus, more evidence is required on this
topic.

Garson

On Mon, Sep 13, 2021 at 2:00 PM Brenda Herren-Kenaga
<bherrenkenaga at sthelensoregon.gov> wrote:
>
> I don't know if this is at all helpful... https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bobs-your-uncle.html lists a few lines from the song Follow Your Uncle Bob.
>
> Brenda
> Brenda Herren-Kenaga, MLS, MA
> Reference Librarian
> St. Helens Public Library
> 375 S 18th, Suite A
> St. Helens, OR 97051


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