The “Bob” Sayings

Bob is a pretty solid name, all things considered. Although not as popular as it was when I was a kid, when every grade school class I took seemed to have at least one other Bob in it, Robert remains one of the top 100 most popular name for a male child, coming in at number 80. And “Bob” also has the advantage of being featured in two curious sayings: “Yessirree Bob” and “and Bob’s your uncle” (which is, admittedly, much more popular in England than in the U.S.)

Of the two sayings, the origin of “and Bob’s your uncle”–which roughly means “and it’s as simple as that”–is seemingly easier to trace. According to one website, the phrase came into use in Great Britain in the late 1800s, when a Prime Minister named Robert appointed his nephew to be the Minister for Ireland. Thanks to this act of raw political nepotism, a significant “Bob” phrase entered the English language, because it was presumably simple to become the a high-ranking governmental official when “Bob’s your uncle.”

The source of “Yessirree Bob” is harder to pin down. This saying, which was a favorite of my mother, means “yes, absolutely.” It’s obvious that “yessirree” is derived from “Yes, sir.” But where does the Bob part come from? The on-line sources disagree as to when and why this phrase first entered the language, with some radically different theories. I suspect that “Bob” was selected for this phrase because it’s short and, by virtue of ending with the hard “b,” definitive to say. As a result, it serves as a kind of punctuation for the saying. “Yessirree Christopher” wouldn’t have quite the same punch.