Dinner conversation among friends got to political topics. Resolved arguments concluded at the conclusion of the meal. My husband wrapped up the discussion with a comment of finality, “it IS what it is,’ to which our friend added, “and Bob’s your uncle.”
I beg your pardon, but I have an Uncle Bob. How did you know? And what does that have to do with what we were saying? I was totally befuddled by the turn the discussion took at its abrupt conclusion.
It’s an expression, my learned friend explained. It’s used mostly by English folks–you know, the British–who are famed for their priceless expressions.
I learned quickly that it had nothing to do with my relatives, nevermind my Uncle Bob. But what it had to do with our discussion was still a mystery to me.
That’s a pretty funny expression, I thought. For what, I wanted to know. What does it mean, and please make a context for me, I implored, seeking a connection of clarification of any kind.
What does the expression mean?
‘Bob’s your uncle’ is an expression expressing successful conclusion. It often comes after instructions for doing something or making something or getting something finished successfully and rather easily. The typical illustrative example for using the expression is an instruction for making a ham-and-cheese sandwich. It goes something like this: You take two pieces of bread. Put a slice of ham on one piece of bread and a slice of cheese on the other. Put the two pieces of bread together and bob’s your uncle!
The expression is correctly employed as a substitute for concluding expressions such as Voila!, Presto! or “simple as that!” or …”and there you have it.” Success is implied. Simplicity is implied. Ease of achievement is implied. A fitting and conclusive remark, and so very British. Pretty cool, too, if you know what it means.
Where did the expression come from?
It came from England, of course, but its exact source is uncertain. At least two theories reign. One comes from the English expression, all is bob, meaning that all has turned out satisfactorily. All is well, safe, okay, and as expected. That’s the connection to the bob part, which doesn’t really refer to anybody named Bob or Robert.
The other theory comes from a bit of English history, better described as a tale of political nepotism. It was 1887 when prime minister, Robert Cecil (a.k.a. Lord Salisbury), named his nephew, Arthur Balfour, as Chief Secretary of Ireland. Young Balfour was considered entirely unsuitable for the position. History showed that Balfour did a reasonable job, but having Bob as one’s uncle, particularly Lord Salisbury, ensured success.
So, if you happen to have an uncle named Bob, feel confident in knowing you’re good to go! If not, call upon ‘bob’s your uncle,’ the expression, to ensure success anyway!