Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bob's Your Uncle

One of the things I like about Wikipedia is that it explains a lot of things that otherwise pass me by.  I lived a year in the UK and never understood "Bob's Your Uncle."  Perhaps it was the place I was assigned, where things were not obvious and no one was suggesting they were.  Then, last night, watching an episode of "Dangerous Davies," I heard the expression again and immediately recognized it and wondered what it really meant.

Thus to Wikipedia, where it is laid out in all its historical context.
Bob's your uncle is a commonly-used expression known mainly in Britain, Ireland and Commonwealth countries.  It is often used immediately following a set of simple instructions and carries roughly the same meaning as the phrase "and there you have it"; for example, "Simply put a piece of ham between two slices of bread, and Bob's your uncle."
But, where did it come from? Is it another one of those expressions that was potty humor and then became acceptable? Wikipedia to the rescue, and a fascinating story it is:
It's a catch phrase dating back to 1887, when British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury decided to appoint a certain Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of Chief Secretary for Ireland. Not lost on the British public was the fact that Lord Salisbury just happened to be better known to Arthur Balfour as "Uncle Bob."  In the resulting furor over what was seen as an act of blatant nepotism, "Bob's your uncle" became a popular sarcastic comment applied to any situation where the outcome was preordained by favoritism.  As the scandal faded in public memory, the phrase lost its edge and became just a synonym for "no problem."
Kad Barma will like this.  Arthur Balfour is the man who gave us the Balfour Declaration.

I think we should consider adopting this expression here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (I can't just say Commonwealth, as I was born in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and have two sons, and families, living in the Commonwealth of Virginia).

Just as Arthur Balfour's appointment to Chief Secretary for Ireland was all about nepotism and helping the favored move along, so it is on Beacon Hill, inherited from our British ancestors.  Bob's your uncle.

Regards  --  Cliff

No comments: