Friday, November 15, 2013

Bob's Your Uncle - Anglophile Friday

 Bob's not MY Uncle
(Handsome dude, isn't he!) 
A demerit-less record at West Point
(This is General Robert E. Lee, CSA, in case there's someone who doesn't recognize him)

My other choice was Bob the Builder.

I've decided to do a couple posts about the English language - the one in Britain (as opposed to the one in America). As you know, they can be quite different at times.

FOR example:  the expression 'Bob's Your Uncle.'  I'm pretty sure that I heard Sergeant Lewis use it in the old Morse movies, and I've heard Inspector Frost use it at least two times lately, in the series,  'A Touch of Frost.'  I may even have heard it used by Bacchus in 'George Gently.' I've tried to determine its meaning from context, but am still puzzled enough to feel unconfident about adding it to my personal lexicon.

I'm thinking it's like, 'There you have it!' but I'm not sure. So I'm asking my British friends if they could explain it to me. AND, is there an American equivalent?


Here's another example:  From the latest issue of BBC History Magazine:

"Concerns that the pressure of league tables is causing secondary schools to limit access to history teaching have emerged after a survey by a leading historical society revealed that the number of pupils in England barred from studying the subject has increased dramatically."

I had to read it three times to figure out what on earth they were talking about. My mind's search engine had immediately started looking for like files:  Nothing.

It did help, of course, when I looked up the term 'league tables.'

So here's what I found:

'a comparison of achievement or merit in a competitive area: [e.g.] a national league table of school results.'

  • If you know of other British expressions that don't translate easily, I'd love to hear them - and an explanation, of course.

  • Especially for our British friends, are there any British expressions that you heard all the time you were growing up, but find they are seldom in use now?
  • Are there any British expressions you Americans have heard, but don't know the meaning? Maybe our British readers would help us out here.

As they say, two countries divided by a common language.

P.S. Okay, and for you Southerners who are offended by my flippant use of General Lee's photo, I want you to know that I have great admiration for General Lee and own probably 3 linear feet of books about him in my library. He is high in my Civil War esteem, only surpassed by General James Longstreet (another entire shelf). And if you have something nice you'd like to say about General Longstreet, feel free to write it in a comment.


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Anonymous said...

This expression sometimes gets extended to Bob's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt!

Susie said...

Tracey over at Breathing English Air , may be able to help you with"Bob's your uncle" My friend Bee at Muffin 53 part duex, she lives in West Palm Beach ...she says "my day is going to be totally tits" I just assume that means, great.:):) Don't you love the way we all talk. Blessings, xoxo,Susie

Susie said...

I just click to leave my comment and Tracey's popped up the same time. xox,susie

The Quintessential Magpie said...

That's interesting... I generally hear terms like jumper for sweater, etc.

I'm sure if I sat down and thought about it, I could come up with some, but a minister I know said something in England on a trip there and offended everyone. He was told later and apologized and explained what we mean by the term. Wish I could remember what it was.

And no offense about Bobby Lee aka Uncle Robert who is distantly related to my husband and also to a close friend. It is sort of like being related to God in the South. ;-)

Longstreet was not responsible for the Confederate slaughter at Gettysburg. He sent those men in against his own will and under the direct orders of his Commander, Uncle Bobby. And Longstreet waited and waited for JEB, my Civil War heart throb, to show, and he was out joyriding and got cut off with his cavalry unit and couldn't report on the disastrousness and futility of sending those troops in as told by Sherra. I want to look into that more and see if Shelby comments on it. But any way you look at it, Longstreet was a good general and was obeying orders, and Lee was lost without his right arm and prayer partner, Stonewall Jackson.



Cranberry Morning said...

Thank you, Quintessential Magpie!! Yes, yes, yes!! Someone else who appreciates General Longstreet! xo

Bossy Betty said...

Looking forward to hearing more about the expression. I really did have an Uncle Bob too. You could have used his picture. He had a big lump in the middle of his forehead. It was fascinating.

TexWisGirl said...

i have not heard that phrase. :)

Heide at ApronHistory said...

It will be interesting to hear where it came from and what is means or use to mean. I am pretty sure I have seen it in Agatha Christie books too. I get the feeling it was from a certain area or people as someone like Miss Marple or Captain Hasting would not use it.

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

Yes - "Bob's your uncle" is an expression used to suggest that a task doesn't need much effort. You just do this, and that - and Bob's your uncle (it's done). I think it came about because a surprise appointment to the position of Secretary of State for Ireland in the 19th century was a chap called Arthur Balfour. Our mate Art just happened to be nephew of the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, whose first name was Robert. Job done - Bob's your uncle..!

RURAL said...

Being Canadian, these are historical figures to us, and we don't usually sway in one direction or the other.

But it is interesting to read the comments.


Cranberry Morning said...

Thanks, Mike, for clearing this up for us. And I was reminded by a friend in Wales that the English language is spoken there too. LOL Sorry. Will make the correction in the text of the post. :-)

MadSnapper said...

all i can say is when i saw the photo i started waving my rebel flag... LOL... rebel to the bone, that is me..Long Live the south...and the paragraph you read three times, i read once and moved on to the part about understanding it at all... i have never heard bob's your uncle. and the amazing thing is when i googled that it came up as a shoppe in Savannah which is my home town

SImple and Serene Living said...

Love that phrase. Haven't heard it for a long time, though. xo Laura

sweetbriardreams said...

I do use the expression 'Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt' meaning it's completed or at the end of explaining how something was done.

I don't know the origin but I know I inherited the saying from my grandparents.

Have a great weekend xx

NanaDiana said...

LOL- I don't know if this is right or not, Judy, but I always head that it was something to do with an appointment by Robert (someone) in the British hierarchy and the comment was passed to the man that was appointed- Well, Bob's your uncle. So I always associated it with something like- well-that's that!
Who knows where some of these terms came from.

I see you like history, too. My SweetCheeks is learning about the Presidents starting with Washington (nothing to do with school-just here on her own). She knows more facts about George Washington than most adult Americans do. She is now moving on to John Adams. I love it! xo Diana

Vee said...

A number of my Canadian friends use the expression "and Bob's your uncle" or "and you're laughing" in the sense of "easy as pie," which at this time of year reminds me that pie is NOT that easy.

Love reading the history commentary...very interesting!

podso said...

You mean the war between the states? They seem to still call it that down here in the south … Gen Lee was a handsome man. Interesting and fun post.

Leslie Anne Tarabella said...

Well, I'm a Southerner and I see no offense whatsoever. Just glad you have great-great-great-great- Grandpa's photo up! (just kidding).

I can't believe I've never heard "Bob's your uncle!" With all the crazy sayings around here, this one has escaped me!

What I want to know is about something my Grandmother would say, which was: "Your foot in a band box!" - kind of like "Oh, you get out of here!" - in a playful way. Where in the world did that come from? (She was from Scottish descent).

Such a fun post. Maybe I'll ask my readers about some sayings!

J_on_tour said...

Haha. I think your readers have pretty much explained it now. Bob's your uncle comes at the end of a phrase after a subject that is "sorted" or … "clear as a bell" … haha. It's an add on that doesn't need to be used but accents how sure you are about what's just been said.


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