“Uncle Who?”

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I continued to think of English phrases that confuse me. I first heard “Bob’s your uncle” in the film version of “Mary Poppins,” but forgot about it until I heard it again recently in a Masterpiece Theatre episode. In the recent case, the detective said “Quicker than you can say Bob’s your uncle.” Of course I had to try to track down the meaning of this odd phrase.

Interestingly enough, given my recent foray into nepotism, there was some suggestion on line that the phrase first applied to a British prime minister appointing his nephew to be minister to Ireland in 1887. I liked the possibility that I had stumbled on two English phrases for favoritism. Sadly, other web sites discounted the attribution and said it was first mentioned in connection with the variety show illustrated above.

After reflecting again on nepotism I found myself singing a song my grandfather loved. “Lloyd George knew my father, Father knew Lloyd George” and so on ad infinitum. But I still was no closer to understanding the meaning of “Bob’s your uncle.” Once again I am counting on my friends across the pond to enlighten me.

29 thoughts on ““Uncle Who?”

  1. I’m not sure that we will be able to enlighten you Elizabeth. The derivation seems to be as you mention above but there is no confirmation to be found.

    I can throw a couple of spanners into the works by mentioning that a BOB was also the slang term for a shilling, and UNCLE was also used to describe a pawnbroker. Also there’s a long version of “Bob’s your uncle and Fanny’s your aunt”.

    Whatever the derivation, it is equivalent to “easy as pie” or “piece of cake”!

    The outcome of all this is that I cannot rightly say Bob’s your uncle!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pete Springer has it about right. It originated in London as Cockney slang for a visit to a pawnbroker. Pawnbrokers were usually called ‘Uncle’, to disguise the fact that people were pawning valuables because they were poor. So when they needed money, a friend might say “Bob’s your uncle”, or “Go to see uncle Bob”. As far as I know, “Fanny’s your aunt” is just a female version of the same thing, often tacked together into one phrase. As Pete says, a shilling (12 old pennies) was known as a ‘Bob’. Until decimal currency, I always referred to a ten-shiling note as ‘Ten bob’.
    (Truth be told, I still call a 50-pence piece -the decimal eqivalent- a ‘ten-bob bit’.)
    Best wishes, Pete..

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You’re giving the wrong Pete credit this time, Beetley Pete. I’ve heard the expression and guessed the correct meaning, but I had no idea of its origin. Thanks to Peter at Peter’s Pondering and for you to help educate the rest of us.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Have you heard of Peter Pan syndrome? It’s defined as a grown-up who refuses or can’t act like an adult—a stubborn and persistent immaturity. I can think of a few people who fit that description. 😂😁😁

          Liked by 1 person

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