Bob’s Your Uncle

A few months ago I was watching a show with Yadid and one of the characters said, “…And Bob’s your uncle”.  We were dumbstruck. What does this expression mean? As it turns out this an expression of unknown origin, that means “and there it is” or “and there you have it.” It is commonly used in England. Typically, someone says it to conclude a set of simple instructions or when a result is reached. For example: “left over right; right over left, and Bob’s your uncle – a reef knot.” The meaning is similar to that of the French expression “et voilà!”

I was thinking about this expression yesterday as it was the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.  The Balfour Declaration was a single paragraph in a letter dated November 2, 1917 from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland. It read:

His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The text of the letter was published in the press one week later, on November 9, 1917. The Balfour Declaration was later incorporated into the Mandate for Palestine. The issuance of the declaration had many long-lasting consequences.

Portrait of Arthur Balfour (1892)

But what does any of this have to do with our mystery expression? As it turns out A. J. Langguth and others have suggested that the expression “…And Bob’s your uncle” arose after Conservative Prime Minister Robert “Bob” Cecil appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887, an act which was apparently both surprising and unpopular. In this sense, the expression also carried a hint of sarcastic envy or resentment, rather like “it’s who you know, not what you know” that gets results.

So Lord Balfour write his declaration, David Ben-Gurion declares Statehood, the Israeli army fights countless wars, and Bob’s your uncle we are blessed with the modern State of Israel.

 

 

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