Origins of the Phrase Bobs Your Uncle and Who Exactly is Bob

Origins of the Phrase Bobs Your Uncle and Who Exactly is Bob

“Bob’s your uncle” is a phrase commonly used in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries that means “and there it is,” “and there you have it,” or “it’s done.” Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions or when a result is reached. The meaning is similar to that of the French expression “et voilà!”

The origins of the phrase are uncertain, but a common hypothesis is that it arose after Conservative Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (“Bob”), appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887. This act of nepotism was apparently both surprising and unpopular. Whatever other qualifications Balfour might have had, “Bob’s your uncle” was seen as the conclusive one.

A suggested weakness in this hypothesis is that the first documented usage of “Bob’s Your Uncle” is in the title of a new song in an advertisement for Herman Darewski Music Publishing Co., published in The Stage (London) on 11 January 1923. In one author’s opinion, if Salisbury’s notorious nepotism toward Balfour in the 1880s had been so widely spoken of to inspire a popular phrase, it is unlikely that it would have taken nearly forty years for it to appear in print for the first time.

Expressions of self-satisfaction or pride or delight at the end of a sentence describing an action, a situation, an instruction, or direction, especially when it seems easier or quicker than expected, include:

A long version is “Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt.” All versions sometimes spell “your” as “yer.”

Expressions with a stronger emphasis on easiness or delight include:
– “Piece of cake,” an informal expression for something very easy.
– “It’s a doddle,” another slang expression for something very easy or “it’s a cinch.”
– “Easy peasy,” a childish expression for something very easy.

Expressions with a stronger emphasis on self-satisfaction or pride of achievement or just delight include:
– “Job done,” something said when someone has achieved something, especially when it seems easier or quicker than expected.
– “Job’s a good’un,” similar slang meaning “and there you go,” or “it’s done with,” or “it’s finished with,” or “it is completed to everyone’s satisfaction.”
– “Lovely jubbly,” made famous by ‘Del Boy’ the main character from the long-running English sitcom Only Fools And Horses, “lovely jubbly” refers to “lovely job,” or “great,” or “good news,” or “it is completed to everyone’s satisfaction or profit.”
– “It’s in the bag,” meaning “job done,” or “and there you go,” or “great job,” or “it’s all yours,” or “it’s completed to your own benefit.”
– “Back of the net,” literally meaning “goal” or “success,” but used for “great,” or “victory at last,” or “result,” or “it’s completed to your own satisfaction.”

In 1954, the song “Bob’s Yer Uncle! (an’ Fanny’s yer aunt)” was a hit on the British sheet music sales charts, reaching No. 22 on 12 June that year. Composed by Tommie Connor and Eddie Lisbona, the first recording released in Britain was by American singer Guy Mitchell in May 1954. The following month, two covers by British artists were released: one by actor John Slater, and another by Billy Cotton and his Band, with vocals by Alan Breeze and The Bandits. The Mitchell version was not released in his native America.

The phrase is used by characters in numerous works of art, entertainment, and media. The following are examples:

In Mary Poppins, Bert uses the phrase to describe how quickly unusual things happen when in Mary’s presence.

In Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow says it when warning Barbossa about the Dauntless and its crew waiting outside of the Isla de Muerta.

In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Leo Fitz uses the phrase after he explains how they tracked a Rising Tide Hacker in Season 1, Episode 5, “Girl in the Flower Dress.”

In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Phil Coulson uses the phrase to describe the ease of infiltrating Cybertek’s headquarters in Season 1, Episode 22, “The Beginning of the End.”

In Weeds, Doug uses the phrase to tell Nancy how quickly her money problems will disappear if she sets up a money laundering business front in order to hide her proceeds from dealing drugs in Season 1 Episode 2 “Free Goat.”

In Flaked, Chip uses the phrase to tell Kara how easy it is to lock the door to his store in Season 1 Episode 1 “Westminster.”

In Mr. Robot, Romero uses the phrase to tell Elliot how easy it will be to hack the climate control systems of Steel Mountain with the Raspberry Pi in Season 1 Episode 5 “eps1.4_3xpl0its.wmv.”

In Hitchcock’s Frenzy, the fruit merchant turned necktie murderer, Robert Rusk (Barry Foster), uses the phrase several times while actually referring to himself. “Anytime, don’t forget Bob’s your uncle” and later again, “I told you, Bob’s your uncle.” In those contexts, the phrase didn’t seem to mean “And voila–there you have it,” like in most of this article. Rather, Rusk simply seems to be claiming a paternal—or avuncular—concern for and offering aid to his friend in trouble.

In 101 Dalmatians, Horace says it when Jasper tells him to grab a torch.

In Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Diamond Dog says, “and Robert’s your father’s brother, savvy?” after issuing detailed orders on the robbery his gang is about to commit.

In The Simpsons episode S11E15 “Missionary: Impossible” Homer says, “I’ll help with your next charity scam;” Lovejoy: “The word is ‘drive’;” Homer: “Sure, sure, Bob’s your uncle.” Also in The Simpsons episode, “A Streetcar Named Marge” from season 4, Bart says “Bob’s your uncle, mate!” while Marge, Lisa, and Bart tear back and forth in southern and cockney English accents, respectively.

In Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! the phrase is used as a running gag throughout, usually with characters failing to understand its true meaning, for example: “Surely Bjorn Stronginthearm is my uncle.”

In the animated show “Archer” in the season 2 episode “Double Deuce”, Woodhouse’s deceased Captain during WWII says, “Bob’s your uncle!” when proposing to his crew to start a tontine.

In The 100 season three episode “Red Sky at Morning” and season four episode “The Chosen”, Monty uses the phrase, and in season five episode “Damocles Part 2” Raven says it.

In Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, while suggesting a plan for the team, Benji uses the phrase.

In the 1951 movie Scrooge, when Scrooge presents his housekeeper with a guinea as a Christmas present and gives her the day off, she exclaims “Bob’s your uncle!” before she leaves.

In the British situation comedy Waiting for God, the head of the retirement community Harvey Baines explains one of his plans to the relatives of two of the residents, and at the end says “[…] and Robert is your father’s brother”. When they show they don’t understand what he tells them, he adds on, “Bob’s your uncle.”

In Supergirl season four episode “Bunker Hill”, Kara uses the phrase.

In the seventh series of the British TV show Doctor Who, the Doctor uses the expression in the ninth episode titled “Hide” following a detailed enumeration of the steps of his rescue plan.

In the January 5, 1967 episode of the TV detective series 77 Sunset Strip (“The Down Under Caper”, Episode 16), it’s said when Paddy the foreman takes direction from the ranch owner and Spencer’s client, Margaret, before leaving on a supply run.

In the second episode of Ricky Gervais’ Netflix series After Life, Ricky’s character “Tony” tells his father “Bob’s your uncle”, to which he replies, “Is he?”

In a DC’s Legends of Tomorrow episode (Season 5, Episode 9), Charlie/Clotho says, “All I’ll do is just run over there, put my hand in that hole, grab the ring, Bob’s your uncle.”

In the Monk episode “Mr. Monk and the Voodoo Curse” (Season 8, Episode 7), Lt. Disher says “Bob’s your uncle” after explaining the crime scene. This leads to an argument with Capt. Stottlemeyer as to what it means. Disher explains the niece reported the crime and that the victim’s name was Robert.

In the 1990 album by Happy Mondays ‘Pills ‘n’ Thrills And Bellyaches’ ‘Bob’s yer Uncle’ is the sixth track.

In the 2009 NCIS episode “Truth or Consequences” (Season 7, Episode 1), Tony DiNozzo is talking to Gibbs about his subtle communication with Vance: “Wow, you guys have a whole little thing going on. But I get it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Bob’s your uncle. I’m hip. I dig it.”

In Wolf Creek, the main antagonist Mick Taylor, says a variation of this, using the phrase “Bob’s your sister” when he’s explaining on how he will fix the protagonist’s car.

In the 1999 film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Austin Powers uses this expression when briefing fellow agent Felicity Shagwell of his plan to escape Dr. Evil’s guards.

In the Lucifer episode “Wingman” (Season 1, Episode 7), Chloe says it right after Lucifer ditches in the middle of a conversation.

The 2019 video game Pokémon Sword and Shield set in the Galar region, loosely based on the United Kingdom, features a restaurant in the city of Circhester named “Bob’s Your Uncle.”

In Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, after summarizing their plan briefly, Benji uses the phrase.

In The Good Liar, Roy Courtnay uses the phrase.

In Ripley’s Game, a novel by Patricia Highsmith published in 1974, on page 62, a character using the alias Stephen Wister tells Jonathan Trevanny, “- Bob’s your uncle as the British say, isn’t that right?”

In Fallout 4, a Mister Handy robot named “Bob’s Your Uncle” can be found at the Easy City Downs location.

Source: Wikipedia, Word Histories, World Wide Words, The Stage, Boxtree, Hamish Hamilton Limited, Facts on File, Fithian Press, Oxford English Dictionary, Port Out, Starboard Home, Dictionary of Idioms and their Origins, Online Etymology Dictionary

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