“Bob’s your uncle” — and other family members in lingo

Emperor Maximilian I with his son Philip the Fair, his wife Mary of Burgundy, his grandsons Ferdinand I and Charles V, and Louis II of Hungary (husband of his granddaughter Mary of Austria) / Wikimedia Commons

“Using a fluffy brush, blend the highlight into the fuller parts of your breasts — that being the high points that naturally catch the light, and Bob’s your uncle.” So advised Cosmopolitan recently in an article titled “How to make your boobs look way bigger …” That has to be one of the saucier examples of the very British expression “Bob’s your uncle,” which curiously still hasn’t made its way across the Atlantic. But there are plenty of expressions and colloquialisms used by both Brits and Americans that incorporate the names of family members, as well as slang meanings of those names. Here are some of them below; can you think of any others?

Sister:

Slang meaning: A fellow black female (North American informal). And more recently, a fellow woman seen in relation to feminist issues.

“Sob sister”: A female journalist who writes articles with sentimental appeal or who answers readers’ problems.

Brother:

Slang meaning: A man of the same group; friend. Also used informally in North America to mean a fellow black male.

“Oh, brother!” A mild exclamation of surprise, amazement, etc. (North American informal)

“Blood brother”: A boy or man who has sworn loyalty to another despite not being biologically related.

“Big Brother is watching you”: from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four: one’s actions and intentions are being monitored by the government as a means of controlling and suppressing the will of the people.

“To be one’s brother’s keeper”: To be responsible for someone else, who is not related.

“Everyone and their brother”: A large number or a majority of people. (See also “All the world and his wife” below)

Mother:

Slang usage: An extreme example or very large specimen of something. “I got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams.” Also a slang word for marijuana and drug-dealer.

Also short for motherfucker (North American slang, vulgar)

“Old enough to be someone’s mother/father”

“Like mother, like daughter”: Daughters resemble their mothers and tend to do what their mothers did before them. (See “Like father, like son” below.)

Father:

“Like father, like son”: Fathers and sons resemble each other, and sons tend to do what their fathers did before them. (See “Life mother, like daughter above.)

“To be gathered to (one’s) fathers”: To die.

“(A bit of) how’s your father”: A playful euphemism for sexual activity. (British, Australian)

“A child is father of/to the man”: People’s personalities form when they are children; a person will have the same qualities as an adult that he or she had as a child.

“Experience is the father/mother of wisdom”: The more that happens to you, the more you will learn.

“To father something on someone”: to regard someone as the author or originator of something

“The wish is father to the thought”: People sometimes come to believe something that they wish were true.

“When someone was a (mere) twinkle in their father’s eye”: Before someone was born

“Old enough to be someone’s mother/father”

Husband:

Slang usage: rolling pin, or long narrow loaf of bread (Australian slang)

“Husband and wife”: knife (in Cockney Rhyming Slang)

Wife:

“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” The associates of public figures must not even be suspected of wrongdoing.

“A good husband makes a good wife”: If a husband treats his wife well, she will treat him well in return.

“(All) the world and his wife”: A very large number of people. (British, Australian)

“Wife-beater”: A sleeveless undershirt

“Husband and wife”: see above

Uncle:

“Bob’s your uncle”: see above

Aunt:

Slang usage: A prostitute or someone who procures prostitutes (thieve’s cant)

“Aunt Sally”: A person or thing set up as an easy target for criticism.

“My sainted aunt!”: An exclamation expressing surprise or disbelief.

Daughter:

Slang usage: A metaphor for the hand used in male masturbation (Australian, vulgar)

“To kiss/marry/hug the gunner’s daughter”: Of a seaman, to be bound to a cannon or other armament and flogged or lashed as corporal punishment. (Obsolete, naval)

“Favorite daughter”: A well-known person, especially a politician, who is supported and celebrated by people in her hometown.

“He that would the daughter win, must with the mother first begin.”: If you want to marry a woman, find a way to impress her mother, so that the mother will bless your union.

“Like mother, like daughter”: see above

Son:

Slang usage: A general term of address to a male. Usually used in a friendly way. (London slang). “Nice one, son!”

“Son of a bitch”: Used as a general term of contempt or abuse.

“Son of a gun”: A jocular or affectionate way of addressing or referring to someone.

“Like father, like son”: see above

Grandfather:

“To grandfather someone or something in”: To protect someone or a right through the use of a grandfather clause.

“A grandfather clause”: a clause in an agreement that protects certain rights granted in the past even when conditions change in the future.

Grandmother:

“(Don’t) teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs”: To try to tell or show someone more knowledgeable or experienced than oneself how to do something.

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