Bob’s Your Uncle!

[Q] From Florence C Goold: “What is the origin and actual meaning of bob’s your uncle?”

[A] This is a catchphrase which seemed to arise out of nowhere and yet has had a long period of fashion and is still going strong. It’s known mainly in Britain and Commonwealth countries, and is really a kind of interjection. It’s used to show how simple it is to do something: “You put the plug in here, press that switch, and Bob’s your uncle!”.

from World Wide Words

I am officially starting a movement for the United States to join the rest of the civilized English speaking world and start shouting, “Bob’s Your Uncle!” This is a nice blog by Michael Quinion about English in England and the U.S., and he offers a detailed explanation of the phrase. Another related blog, “Separated by a Common Language” by a writer known only as “lynneguist” has an interesting post about Barack Obama’s apparently ambiguous racial standing.

It seems Debra J. Dickerson has claimed (in Salon) that Obama isn’t black because he isn’t a descendant of U.S. slaves. In rebuttal, Gary Kamiya writes (in Salon) that Obama “is black — he just isn’t “black.”” That settles it for me. Of course, lynnequist’s site is named after George Bernard Shaw’s famous quip that “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” He also said that “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” Bob’s your Uncle!

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

One Thought on “Bob’s Your Uncle!

  1. Glad you found that discussion interesting, Ray. It’s a complicated issue that I’m sure I’ll come back to (probably many times).

    As for being ‘known only as “lynneguist”‘, I should point out that I am known as other things as well! I’m not “really” anonymous on the blog–the website link on my Blogger profile goes to my university website–so that people can see that I do indeed have some linguistic credentials, as I claim. Maybe I’ll make that clearer on the profile. (But to save you the trouble of looking, I’m Lynne Murphy, University of Sussex. Nice to meet you!)

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