I was amused to hear Martha describe “the whole nine yards” as the grail of etymologists. That brought to mind “balls to the wall” and my all time favorite (my Sasquatch) of “Bob’s your uncle”. As with the other two there are many explanations of where “Bob’s your uncle” came from and none of them satisfied me. Yet, one day I was reading, The Great Train Robbery” by Michael Crichton and in it he mentioned someone pawning an object and referring to the activity as “unckling”. For me the penny dropped (or in this case an English piece of coinage called a “Bob”) and I imagined a pawnbroker putting a single coin in the hand of a customer and saying, “bob’s your uncle” or less eloquently, “you pawn is a shilling”. To me this transaction would have a pretty strong message of unquestionable finality to it or “there you go!”. I have espoused this in the past to ridicule but have never been given a better (or more colorful) possible derivation. Where did the term really begin? Was it a legitimate phrase in the 1800’s?
BTW, “balls to the wall” = a flight commander directing all dive bomber’s joy sticks being pushed all the way forward (to the fireWALL) for a steep dive?
Here is a reliable treatment:
This British catch phrase means all will be well or all will be taken care. The origin is not known.
Popular etymology says that it derives from a particular act of nepotism in the British government. Robert, Lord Salisbury, the prime minister (left), appointed Arthur Balfour, his nephew (right), to the post of Secretary for Ireland in 1887. Balfour was, at the time, considered young and a political lightweight, and the post was a high-profile, political plum currently embroiled in the question of Irish independence. Unfortunately for this great story, there is no evidence to link this act with the origin of the phrase.
The first citation in the OED is from 1937 …
And I had never even questioned the phrase. It seemed so obvious to me!
“I love your father very much, honey, and I miss him since he went off to fight the war. You are undoubtedly wondering who this strange man is that you discovered in the bathroom this morning. Bob’s your uncle, arrived late last night, and with all the hotels in town full, your father would want me to offer him lodging.We take care of family!”
It’s not that we want to lie to our kids,but we don’t want to have our kids announce to the world that their father is a cuckold
Isn’t “Bob’s your uncle” a lie told to someone who knows it’s a lie, but prefers the lie to being told the truth?
Definitely not—not as it’s commonly used nowadays, anyway. I have no idea of the origin, but it’s generally understood nowadays to mean “easy as pie” or “and there you are”. Like this:
“Sure, no problem; you just take off north up Cherry Street, here, turn right at the first light and go about three blocks; when you see the Barnes & Noble on the left, look to your right and Bob’s your uncle, you’re there.”
“Oh, they didn’t make any difficulties. I just told them I was your fiancee and Bob’s your uncle, I was in.”
“It’s embarrassingly simple: Just type ‘tso isrfind’ and it’ll bring up the menu, easy as Bob’s your uncle.”
That last one, “easy as Bob’s your uncle”, is sort of redundant, but I have read it that way occasionally.
The possibility of divorce isn’t a matter of “wierding out”, but a serious threat to a kid, and if he can believe that “uncle Bob” was there for a bed, not for nookie, it’s not threatening.
Couples negotiate all sorts of sexual treaties, but they rarely tell their minor children he details. Divorcees and other single women are pretty reluctant to let their chldren meet their dates, which strikes me as short-sighted – they need to see healthy relationships if they are to have their own healthy relationships as adults.
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