a 1938 "bob's yer uncle"? etc. (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Sat Sep 29 14:35:40 UTC 2007

Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

The crossword puzzle from _The Times_ of London (10/14/1942, p. 6) has,
as a clue:  "Shillings from Your Uncle".  The answer appears to be

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Stephen Goranson
> Sent: Saturday, September 29, 2007 5:32 AM
> Subject: a 1938 "bob's yer uncle"? etc.
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      a 1938 "bob's yer uncle"? etc.
> --------------------------------------------------------------
> -----------------
> As you know, Eric Partridge listed as slang "Bob's your
> uncle" in 1937, but, as far as I know, no one has pointed out
> published citations as early as 1937.
> OED notes Partridge and has 1946 as its earliest quotation.
> OED Bob n.7 sense 3:
> 3. Slang phr. Bob's (bob's) your uncle: everything is all right.
> 1937 in PARTRIDGE Dict. Slang (ed. 2) 981/2. 1946 S. SPENDER Europ.
> Witness 143
> He mixes up phrases such as ?Oh boy, oh boy?, with cockney
> such as "Bob's-your-uncle". 1949 "N. BLAKE" Head of Traveller
> iv. 60 Three curves and a twiddle, label it "Object", and
> bob's your uncle.
> Of course many suggest that this refers to Robert Cecil
> appointing his nephew Arthur Balfour Chief Secretary of
> Ireland in 1887; others object that that is too early to be
> probable, and AFAIK present no explict mention of such
> association earlier than 1979 and 1981 books. Some early uses
> seem to follow the approximate form: do X, Y, and Z, and
> (zip-zap, instantly), bob's your uncle (fait accompli), which
> could be seen as differing from because Bob's your (or his)
> uncle, X, Y, and Z follow [see, e.g. 1947 below]. Partridge
> mentioned "all is bob." Bob as possible replacement word for
> God may be worth mention.
> Here are some early uses of the phrase; I invite additions.
> 1938? [Google Books gives 1939, so I got the two 1939 volumes
> from storage, and it isn't on their pp. 72, but I find, in an
> author note, that the Google TOC matches the 1938 volume
> listed below; I've requested the paper copy] New Writing,
> (London : Hogarth Press) edited by John Lehmann, new series
> no. 1, Fall 1938  p. 72:
> line of girls sauntering along by the shop windows. A tall
> girl in the middle turned her head as they came near. "H'm,
> look out, girls," she said.
> 'The army's 'ere.' The others turned and giggled shrilly as
> the youths marched past.
> 'Bob's yer uncle,' shouted another girl, very suddenly. .
> 1942 Movie title, opened in UK March 2, according to imdb.com
> [where a 1991 TV series title is also listed]
> 1943 None But the Lonely Heart, Richard Llewellyn p143
> [Father is a monk] "Hullo, Father," he says, pleased as
> punch, he was. "I never thought you'd be round here this time
> of night? If I thought you was coming, I'd have been round
> here all dolled up and bob's your uncle, hours ago." "And
> where is the reverend gentleman I was hearing...."
> {pages 148-9] "....See? It's just a way of saying some-
> [/149] thing, like Bob's Your Uncle, or Have a Banana. That's
> easy, ain't it?"
> "Just a moment, now," says the monk. "Per cent is another
> name for a hundredth part...."
> 1943 August, Blackwood's Magazine. "Mistaken Identity" [phone
> calls for someone else] 111-6 here 114-5.
> I salvaged from the flood a general impression that I was
> considered to be at fault for not attending at a given time
> and place to rehearse an entertainment whose title may or may
> not [/115] have been "Bob's your Uncle.'
> 1943 Manual of Foreign Dialects for Radio, Stage and Screen,
> Lewis Herman and Marguerite Herman (Chicago, New York:
> Ziff-Davis, 1943)  [under p. 45 heading] COCKNEY SLANG
> To speed a parting, as in the American "Get going, now.":
> "bAWbz y' rAHnkOOL"
> (Bob's your uncle.)
> 1945f a race horse name in UK
> 1946 Ego 8, Continuing the Autobiography of James Agate By
> James Agate  [p.44] ...Monty Mumble...what did I see him in
> last? Was it Topsy Turns Turtle or Bob's Your Uncle? I
> remember he was awfully good as a ship's steward?I had no
> idea he could play a reception-clerk. ...
> 1946 Stephen SPENDER European Witness  ch 11 The Film Unit
> [Boyman, false name, working on Military Government film]143
> Boyman talks an Anglo-American-Continental Film World slang
> in which he mixes up phrases such as "Oh boy, oh boy", with
> cockney such as "Bob's-your-uncle". He combines the gestures
> of a G.I. with those of a farouche type in a Rene Clair film.
> When he speaks French{...oddly]
> 1947 Dulcimer Street, Norman Collins, p.142 "All it needs is
> timing. Pick your moment. Don't force things. And look out
> for a nice lock-up somewhere off the beaten track. Don't get
> too fancy. Don't go too high. Choose something that the cops
> won't turn round to stare at. Then you'll be all right. Make
> it a Morris or an Austin, and Bob's your uncle." "And what
> about your poor old mum if you slip up somewhere?" Voice No.
> 2 said as soon as Voice No. i ...
> 1948 musical farce title, opened in London
> 1949 "N. BLAKE" Head of Traveller iv. 60 Three curves and a
> twiddle, label it "Object", and bob's your uncle.
> 1959 Oct. 31 The Economist p394 [Adv.] Just take out a life
> policy with The Northern--and bob's your uncle! That clears
> the mortgage if you die.
> 1960 Mrs. 'Arris Goes to New York (NY: Doubleday) By Paul
> Gallico p82 [page 85 in London: Michael Joseph  edition of
> Mrs. Hsarris...] It'll only be a couple of days 'til we find
> 'is dad, and then Bob's yer uncle.
> Garn now and forget it, and enjoy yerself. What's to go wrong? ...
> 1979 [phrase finder] Another interpretation is that it
> derives from the supposed nepotism of Lord Salisbury. Piers
> Brendon, in Eminent Edwardians, 1979, writes:
> "... in 1887, Balfour was unexpectedly promoted to the vital
> front line post of Chief Secretary for Ireland by his uncle
> Robert, Lord Salisbury."
> 1981 AJ Langguth, Saki [Cassels], as above 1979.
> Stephen Goranson
> http://www.duke.edu/~goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list