A collection of mail and musings on a topic that may be important.

Updated when I feel like it. If you're here, you have too much time anyway.


From: Gordon Totty []

Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 1998 9:37 AM

To: Jerry Pournelle

Subject: Bob's yer Uncle.

If you get a moment, could you tell me anything more about the subject phrase than what I have listed below?

Cockney slang. Means everything is all right.

Entomology unknown to me. Not listed in Partridge's Slang Dictionary.

May be rhymed "code" for other words.

It is the entomology that I am interested in. Who is Bob? Why Uncle Bob?

I learned the phrase from your columns, and for a long time saw it nowhere else. It does seem to be becoming more in use around here, however.

Thanks for any attention to this!

Gordon Totty


I have no idea of the origin of the phrase although I have been sent several reasonable (and mutually exclusive) folk histories. I first encountered it in one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, was stuck for a phrase while pounding out a column against a deadline, and used it to add a bit of color. It's appropriate in places where "all's well" or "that works just fine" doesn't seem right or has been used a bit much, and I like it. Maybe one day Terry will tell me. Incidentally, those not familiar with the Discworld novels are missing a treat. Order one or two. You'll love them.


Stay well,



From: Harry Erwin []

Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 1998 8:26 AM


Subject: Bobs's Your Uncle

Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts (1832-1914). You might look him up.


Harry Erwin,

Thanks. I'll do that.

From: Jim Arnone []

Sent: Thursday, June 18, 1998 1:49 PM


Subject: ChaosManorMail


Bobs's Your Uncle


I spoke with a British business associate this morning and asked him about this slang expression. He uses it, buts knows nothing of its origin. His comment was that he uses it to indicate everything is going OK or just as "filler" to make a statement longer without really saying anything.

I told him about Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts and his response was that perhaps he was very wealthy and left a large inheritance. If true this would be useful to wish someone good fortune.

The only information found on the web about this person was:

Sir Frederick Sleigh Roberts; 1st Earl 1832-1914 field marshal Roberts, Sir Frederick Sleigh, Baron Roberts of Kandahar, Earl Roberts. (1832-1914) Known familiarly to Englishmen as 'Bobs,' the foremost British general of his time, who died of pneumonia in November, 1914, while visiting the British army in Flanders.

A check on British slang came up with the following:

British slang glossary

* Idiom/Phrases

"Bob's your uncle"

easy does it, no problem

Larry's Aussie Slang and Phrase Dictionary


Hi Jerry!

I came across your site today while doing some research on Australia because I've been considering a study abroad program there. You provide some really great resources, but I noticed that on your page  you link to, but that is a broken link (doesn't look like that page exists anymore). I also found this page in my research which could be a good replacement if you just wanted to change the link :) 

Best, Alice




Bob's your uncle

you just understood something that at first you did not not understand


Bob's your uncle - This term may come from the Irish politician Balfour who in 1887 was unexpectedly promoted to the vital front line post of Chief Secretary for Ireland by his uncle Robert, Lord Salisbury. This stroke of nepotism is said to have inspired the term. The phrase is used as if to say "and so it is done". e.g. "You just turn on the power, hit the switch and Bob's your uncle". If anyone knows of any alternate origins I would love to hear them.

United Kingdom English for the American Novice

BOB'S YOUR UNCLE phrase. 1. Everything is complete. There is no more to be done. As in, "Set up register 13 and BOB'S YOUR UNCLE".



Hello Jerry, I came across your page while planning an upcoming trip to London. I noticed that on you link to, and I think that page may be broken (it doesn't seem to be working for me). In my research, I came across this site ,
articles/london-slang-dictionary.aspx,  and found it to be very helpful and interesting. I thought you might find it to be a fun addition to your page :)

Thanks, Amy Hazelton




| Jim Arnone voice: 602-843-8075 | Arnone Software Consulting Inc |

| fax: 602-843-4466 | 3622 West Calavar Road |

| internet: | Phoenix, AZ 85023-5514 |

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Holy catfish! Well that tells us about all we need to know. And thanks for the fascinating links! Thanks, and stay well, Jerry

From: Harry Erwin []

Sent: Thursday, June 18, 1998 7:33 PM


Subject: Follow-Up on Bob's Your Uncle

Checking around, it looks like the Balfour story (1887) is more likely than a connection to Lord Roberts ('Bobs') of Kandahar. I had read somewhere that the expression came out of the South African thing and meant everything was under control, but that was later. Bobs was extremely popular in the British Army and died of illness in his 80s while inspecting Indian troops on the Western Front in 1914. He was a real hero type, winning his VC in the Mutiny, and a good commander, too. I suspect you would enjoy his biography.

Harry Erwin,

Thanks again.


From: Marc Liggio <>

Org: Allied Business Intelligence, Inc.

Date: Thu, 09 Jul 1998 16:29:23 -0400

Subj: Bob's Your Uncle


This is clipped from THE ALT.USAGE.ENGLISH FAQ FILEby Mark Israel,


"Bob's your uncle"


This British phrase means "all will be well" or "simple as that":

"You go and ask for the job -- and he remembers your name -- and

Bob's your uncle." It dates from circa 1890.

P. Brendon, in _Eminent Edwardians_, 1979, suggests an origin:

"When, in 1887, Balfour was unexpectedly promoted to the vital front

line post of Chief Secretary for Ireland by his uncle Robert, Lord

Salisbury (a stroke of nepotism that inspired the catch-phrase

'Bob's your uncle'), ..."

Or it may have been prompted by the cant phrase "All is bob" =

"all is safe."

(Info from Eric Partridge's _Dictionary of Catch Phrases_, 2nd

edition, revised by Paul Beale, Routledge, 1985, ISBN



Marc Liggio

 And another source heard from. Thanks.


----- End of forwarded message -----

Dave Hardy  reports:

"That will be all right; you needn't bother anymore, just leave it to

me! The phrase was occasioned by A. J. Balfour's promotion by his uncle

Robert (Lord Salisbury) the TORY Prime Minister, to the post of Chief

Secretary for Ireland. Balfour had previously been made President of

the Local Government Board in 1886, then Secretary for Scotland with a

seat in the Cabinet. The suggestion of nepotism was difficult to

ignore." p. 134





And finally, what is said to be the definitive story:

And if you read this far you definitely have too much time on your hands.

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