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Why do we say “Bob’s your uncle?”

The Answer

In 19th-century Britain a sitting Prime Minister named Robert Cecil appointed his nephew to a key political post, raising cries of nepotism.

“Bob’s your uncle” is an expression that means “there you go”, or “there you have it” and is used to indicate how simple a task might be. For example, you might be explaining to someone how to make a stew and you could say the following

” chop the ingredients, heat them in a pot, and Bob’s your uncle

If you don’t live in the British Isles or some of the Commonwealth countries like Canada and Australia, you may never have heard this expression. This might have something to do with its origins.

The phrase is believed to have originated from a political scandal in late 19th-century Britain where Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (Lord Salisbury) appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour to key political positions in the government.

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.”

'Bob's your uncle' – meaning and origin.

This nepotism worked out well for Balfour who went on to become Prime Minister himself after Uncle Bob’s third time holding the post.

Interestingly, the word nepotism derives originally from the Italian word for nephew. From Wordsmith.orgThe word originated from the practice of popes in the Roman Catholic Church to confer important positions to their sons. Since a pope had taken the vow of chastity, his son was euphemistically called a nephew.

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