English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In an episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil Fawlty uses the phrase "And Bob's your uncle". Unfamiliar with it, I looked the phrase up on Wikipedia, which described it this way:

Typically, someone says ["And Bob's your uncle"] to conclude a set of simple instructions, similar to the French expression "et voilà!" or the American slang expressions "...and that's that," or "...and there you go!"

Thinking about it more, I can see a variety of phrases going into this slot. Consider the example sentence,

Take the bread out of the bag, put the bread in the toaster, push the button down, and -- PHRASE -- you've got toast!

In the place of PHRASE I have heard some of the following:

  • Interrogatives
    • What do you get/have?
    • Whaddaya know?
    • Isn't that something?
  • Sayings
    • Drumroll, please
    • Badda-bing, badda-boom
    • Surprise, surprise
  • Interjections
    • (Abracadabra) alakazam!
    • Ta-da!
    • Presto!

A word I learned recently is phatic:

a phatic expression /ˈfætɨk/ is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information

Phatic nearly seems to fit, except:

  1. The PHRASE, though less informative than its neighbors, may have another function: to indicate the list is ending
  2. Even though some definitions allow for building emotional rapport ("of, relating to, or being speech used for social or emotive purposes rather than for communicating information"), which the examples do with suspense or anticipation, the examples I find tend to be about pleasantries such as talking about the weather

The examples need not interrupt the list, as shown in the Fawlty excerpt:

[If] it turns out you don't like your room, then we could always move you in here, but I don't think it's worth doing until you've definitely decided that you don't like that one as much as this one, and then we can sort of sit down round a table, discuss it, chew it over and ... and then it will be a piece of cake. Bob's your uncle...."

Most generally, I'm looking for a term with the definition "a phrase (usually with the audience's emotional state in mind) concluding sequential statements." This definition also covers phrases like "And then I found five dollars" (used when the speaker fears they have bored their audience).

Is there a term to describe this pattern?

share|improve this question
Bingo! Fits well too. "Place slice of bread in toaster and bingo! You now have toast." – Mari-Lou A Feb 3 '14 at 8:06
These things are (when clauses) traditionally known as 'comment clauses' (although there is the semantic content here of 'mission accomplished'). I suppose they are concluding comment clauses. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 3 '14 at 8:12
Phatic expressions can be considered a subset of pragmatic markers (strings having or approaching non-propositionality, appended to sentences). In general, these may be text-organisational (next, ...), message-orientated (probably, ...; speaking as an economist, ...) or addressee-orientated (now look, ...; please ...; what do you get?). This third set is the same set as (or an overlapping set with) 'phatic expressions'. Some (including some of your examples) fulfil more than one role. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 3 '14 at 8:33
How about "punchline" or "tailpiece" – moonstar2001 Feb 3 '14 at 12:50
When the phrase is used to convey to the listener that the list of instructions is being ended, it is being used as a vocalized delimiter. – Marcel Turing Mar 6 '14 at 5:10

I would suggest rhetorical flourish or simply flourish for this usage.

A flourish (n) is:

an act or instance of brandishing or waving
a : a florid bit of speech or writing rhetorical flourishes
b : an ornamental stroke in writing or printing
c : a decorative or finishing detail a house with clever little flourishes

I think that it fits the bill quite well for ending a list with a little zinger like And, Bob's your uncle!

share|improve this answer
Before @FumbleFingers yells at me (again) for reiterating my dictionary link ... It was too jumbled and I wanted to highlight the features. ;-) – David M Mar 10 '14 at 14:58

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.